Osama Bin Laden
Photo: Reuters

Bin Laden offers truce

Al-Jazeera airs tape of Al-Qaeda’s arch terrorist Osama bin Laden warning of more U.S. attacks but offering truce with U.S. forces in Iraq

Osama bin Laden warned that al-Qaeda was preparing new attacks inside the United States, but said the group was open to a conditional truce with Americans, according to an audio tape attributed to him on Thursday.


Al Jazeera television, which aired the tape, said it was recorded in the Muslim month that corresponded to December.


"The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your houses as soon as they are complete, God willing," said the speaker on the audio tape, who sounded like bin Laden.


In the tape, bin Laden said al Qaeda was willing to respond to U.S. public opinion supporting an American troop pullout from Iraq. He did not specify conditions for the truce, but indicated it was linked to U.S. troops quitting Iraq.


"We have no objection to responding to this with a long term truce based on fair conditions."

Bin Laden issued an audio tape in April 2004 in which he also offered a truce -- on that occasion to Europe, but not to the United States.


Analysts saw the move at the time as an attempt to drive a wedge between the United States and its allies and to scare wavering coalition members out of Iraq.


In the brief segments aired, bin Laden ridiculed U.S. President George W. Bush for misreading public opinion which he said showed the American people wanted U.S. forces to quit Iraq.


He also said Iraq had become a recruiting ground for militants. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by close bin Laden ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is one of several insurgent groups fighting U.S. and foreign forces in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials say many of their members are non-Iraqis.


"Your President is misinterpreting public opinion polls which show that the vast majority of you support the withdrawal of your forces from Iraq," bin Laden said.


"He (Bush) disagreed with this desire and said the withdrawal of troops will give the wrong message to the enemy and that it is better to fight them on their ground than on our ground."


"Reality shows that the war against the U.S. and its allies is not just restricted to Iraq as he claims, but Iraq has become a gravitational point and a recruiting ground for qualified (mujahideen)," he added.


Driving a wedge


A U.S. counterterrorism official said U.S. intelligence was assessing the tape in an effort to determine its authenticity.


Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper and an al-Qaeda expert, said bin Laden was trying to turn the American people against Bush by his "frightening" message.


"He (bin Laden) would like to create more trouble for President Bush. He knows that his popularity is going down and he is not responding to the pressure to pull out his troops from Iraq," Atwan said. "He is trying to agitate or mobilize the American people against their president..."


Bin Laden's last audio tape was in December 2004. The interval between then and now is his longest public silence since al-Qaeda's September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.


"He wants to prove that he is still alive. The value is not what he's saying, the value is that he is still alive," said Mustafa alani, of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.


Saudi-born Bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed to be hiding in a mountainous area on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.


On Thursday, Pakistani intelligence sources said four top al-Qaeda militants were believed to be killed in a U.S. airstrike last week which U.S. officials say was aimed at Zawahri.


Daniel Benjamin, a U.S. terrorism expert and co-author of a book, "The Next Attack", said bin Laden had offered previous truces.


"I would interpret this as bin Laden saying, one way in which you can bow your knee to us, either before or after these attacks, is with some kind of truce," he said.


"Remember that bin Laden, in many of his pronouncements over the years, has held out the possibility of a new deal between the Muslim world and the U.S. It's just that the cost has been unbelievable, like getting out of the Middle East entirely or withdrawing support for so-called apostate regimes. This sounds like the same kind of carrot to me."


פרסום ראשון: 01.19.06, 19:46
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