Thursday, September 6, 2007

Osama Bin Laden To Issue Video As 9/11 Anniversary Approaches

CNN reports:

As al Qaeda's media production company touted the imminent release of a video from Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials began dismissing the tape as propaganda.

An Osama bin Laden video is expected by Sunday.

"Soon, God willing, video message by the Lion Sheik Osama bin laden, may God protect him," the banner ad says in Arabic script translated by CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs Octavia Nasr.

The terrorist watch group IntelCenter said Thursday it expected the video to be released within 72 hours.

It would come just days before the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks -- planned and executed by al Qaeda.

There was no "credible information" about any imminent threat to the United States, said Russ Knocke, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

But he reiterated the department's stance that "we are in a period of increased risk."

"The National Intelligence Estimate cited increases in activity overseas, and we're mindful of the recent arrests in Europe," he said. "There has also been an uptick in propaganda tapes and messages coming from al Qaeda and affiliated networks over the past year."

But she stopped short of calling for the media to ignore the tape.

"I just think people have got to be clear that we're being manipulated every time that they issue a statement, because they're trying to use the media as a way to terrorize us," she said. "After all, we haven't seen an attack, and this is one way that they try to terrorize the American people."

The ad includes a photograph of bin Laden with a completely black beard, although it was most recently seen streaked with gray.

It was not clear how old the photograph was.

"I think it works for [al Qaeda's] benefit that he looks young, he looks healthy," said Rita Katz, director of SITE (Search for International Terrorist Entities) Intelligence Group, according to The Associated Press. She said bin Laden's beard may have been dyed, the AP reported.

A U.S. intelligence official said the intelligence community is waiting to see if a video is, in fact, released.

"The most telling feature is if it is recent," said the official. The content could "say a lot about his situation, his health."

The intelligence community will be looking at what it says: Whether the video is an "operational message" or whether it is merely to "establish presence, tell his followers he's large and living," the source said.

Another U.S. official said a new bin Laden videotape would be eagerly anticipated since he has not been seen in almost three years.

The official said the intelligence community would be very interested in the timeliness of the message -- whether bin Laden mentions current events, for example, or some other clue to indicate when the tape was produced -- and whether it offers new leads to his whereabouts.

Bin Laden's most recent video appearance came days before the 2004 presidential vote and was widely credited with giving a boost to President Bush's re-election campaign.

In that tape, bin Laden said he decided in 1982 to attack the twin towers of the World Trade Center after the invasion of Lebanon by Israel, which he claimed was backed by the U.S. Navy.

Although the United States launched the war in Afghanistan to find bin Laden and to deny al Qaeda a safe haven with the Taliban, which then controlled the country, he has eluded capture.

Officials have said bin Laden may be hiding in the mountainous tribal areas of Afghanistan or Pakistan. But a military official recently told said there has been no good lead on his location since about 2005.