Nov 13, 2002

New bin Laden audiotape

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A senior U.S. State Department official confirmed Wednesday a voice on a recording released by the Qatar-based, Arabic language television network Al-Jazeera appears to be that of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen, one of the few Western journalists ever to meet bin Laden, agrees with that assessment. Bergen filed the following report Wednesday:
BERGEN: I've heard his voice many times, and I've met with him, and it's his voice. I can't be 100 percent sure, but I can certainly say 98 percent sure. I think the tape is authentic -- not only by the sound of his voice -- but because of the kind of rhetoric he's using. The voice on the tape used the word "pharaoh." That's the same word people within his group called Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when they assassinated him in 1981.
It fits with the rhetoric. And the rest of what is said on the tape is typical of what bin Laden has said in the past.
Let's for the moment presume the tape is actually bin Laden. I think we're really entering a second phase in the war on terrorism, where we're going to see a lot of attacks on American economic targets, because if this tape is authentic, that means the last tape is authentic.
That last tape {was a call} for attacks on American economic targets {by bin Laden's} No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri -- also within the last few weeks. As a result of which, you saw an attack on an oil tanker in Yemen and the attack on the disco in Bali.
I would say if you are running an American business anywhere around the world right now, one should be very concerned because bin Laden's words have been a very reliable guide to his actions.
When he declared war against the United States in 1996, it wasn't rhetorical flourish. When he said he made no distinction between American military targets and American civilian targets in 1998, he wasn't joking. When he's saying he's calling for attacks against American economic targets, I really believe him.
Also, American economic targets are ubiquitous; they're all around the world. They're also very soft. If you visit an American embassy right now, it's a very hard target. I was in Sweden recently. The American embassy there is like a medium security fortress. But attacking an American business is quite an easy target at this moment.
I think we'll see -- within the next weeks and months -- heightened activity from al Qaeda. This is not rhetoric. This is for real.