Apr 25, 2006

Egypt attack/ OBL tape with Anderson Cooper

We wanted to finish discussing the latest terror attack in Egypt. The attacks have killed at least 23 people, injured as many as 60 others. Earlier I spoke to CNN terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen.


COOPER: Peter, today the town of Dahab in Egypt was attacked. Why this target?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think it's really an attempt to interfere with the tourist economy in Egypt, an attempt to attack the Egyptian government indirectly since tourism is such an important component of the Egyptian economy. We've seen now a campaign of attacks against Egyptian tourist targets in the past year and a half. Before that, there was really no attacks on tourists since 1997 when most of the main Egyptian terrorist groups did a sort of cease-fire with the Egyptian government. That cease-fire is clearly dead now. These groups inspired by Al Qaeda or perhaps links to Al Qaeda certainly inspired by Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's number two guy in Al Qaeda.

COOPER: Who is, of course, Egyptian. There had been an attack in Sharm el-Sheikh which is actually very close to this town of Dahab.

BERGEN: Indeed. The thing about this attack which is a little bit different from some of the other attacks, the other attacks seemed primarily aimed at Jewish targets, Jewish holidaymakers, or at Hilton Hotel, a sort of western symbol. These attacks, you know, obviously westerners are the target, but they seem to have killed a lot of Egyptians. I think it's going to be very counterproductive for whatever groups organized these attacks, much like the attack in Bali in late 2005 that killed mostly Indonesians rather than westerners. I think this attack will prove to be perhaps the thing that really turns around Egyptian popular opinion against these groups.

COOPER: Three separate attacks are really coordinated at the same time. It seems to have the markings of Al Qaeda or a sympathizer to Al Qaeda, correct?

BERGEN: Indeed. The two other attacks that happened in Egypt also had three separate attacks. The attacks I just mentioned in Indonesia had three separate attacks. You know this is the Al Qaeda kind of signature.

COOPER: Why three? I mean is there any significance to that?

BERGEN: I guess, I mean, you know, you just kill more people and create more confusion or more terror.

COOPER: Do you think there's any link between the Bin Laden tape that surfaced over this weekend and today's attack?

BERGEN: I very much doubt it because I think the Bin Laden tape would have taken time to "A", get made sometime in the last five weeks, then "B," transported to Al-Jazeera from somewhere in Pakistan and also the planning for the attack we just saw must have been several weeks in the planning. I think to coordinate these two things would just be way too complex.

COOPER: Last time we heard from Bin Laden was back in January. Why release a tape now?

BERGEN: Ayman Al Zawahiri, the number two, has been releasing a lot of tapes. Osama may feel like he needs to be back in the mix. They face an interesting catch-22, if they say nothing, they become historical figures. If they continue to release these tapes, they continue to actually influence what happens.

COOPER: So it's a way to stay relevant?

BERGEN: Basically.

COOPER: Why an audiotape?

BERGEN: I think videotape has too much information. I mean the last time we saw Ayman Al Zawahiri on a tape, it was actually a curtain behind him, clearly he wasn't in a cave. Well that sort of clue is quite useful obviously to U.S. intelligence agencies. So, an audiotape has no visual information, and also it may just be a sign that Bin Laden is sort of not able to make a videotape for whatever reason.

COOPER: Visual information, I mean, there's been a lot of speculation about how he appears whether or not he's injured or -- I mean, what do you know about that?

BERGEN: Well, in the last videotape which came out October 29, 2004, he actually looked very well, sort of tanned and rested unfortunately. So, you know, the notion that he's dying of kidney disease is certainly not demonstrated by the last videotape we saw of him. He actually looked in reasonably good health, the best I've seen of him for many, many years.

COOPER: That's really not good news. Peter Bergen, thanks.