Originally Published 2004-01-05 07:18:48 Published on Jan 05, 2004
An audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden was aired on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera on January 3,2004. This is the third message exclusively relating to Iraq attributed to him since before the US-led invasion of Iraq by the coalition forces. The first, called a special message to the Iraqi people, was aired on February 11,2003, and the second
Bin Laden's new Year's Message
An audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden was aired on the Arabic network Al-Jazeera on January 3,2004. This is the third message exclusively relating to Iraq attributed to him since before the US-led invasion of Iraq by the coalition forces. The first, called a special message to the Iraqi people,  was aired on February 11,2003, and the second, which was described as "a message from Osama bin Muhammad bin Laden to the American people regarding your aggression in Iraq", was aired on October 18,2003.

The voice in the first two messages were subsequently described by US intelligence officials, after examination, as most probably bin Ladens. A similar authentication  of the latest message is not yet available. The full text of the English translation of the message is also not yet available. These comments, are, therefore based on a study of only extracts from the message.

The first message, which was meant to pep up the morale of the Iraqi people, described how bin Laden and his followers had fought against the US troops in Tora Bora in Afghanistan  despite their inferiority in numbers and equipment and said that the Iraqi people could similarly fight against the foreign invaders. Its most significant part was its toning down of bin Ladens past criticism of Saddam Hussein and its emphasis on the need for all Iraqi Muslims to put up a united struggle agasinst the US troops, setting aside their differences.

It said:" "Needless to say, this crusade war is primarily targeted against the people of Islam.  Regardless of the removal or the survival of the socialist party or Saddam, Muslims in general and the Iraqis in particular must brace themselves for jihad against this unjust campaign and acquire ammunition and weapons. There will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists. The fighting, which is waging and which will be waged these days, is very much like the fighting of Muslims against the Byzantine in the past. And the convergence of interests is not detrimental. The Muslims fighting against the Byzantine converged with the interests of the Persians.  And this was not detrimental to the companions of the prophet. "

The second message, probably recorded after the occupation of Iraq by the coalition troops, was bitter in its criticism of the US and Israel and President Bush. It contained the following warning: "We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved, especially the UK, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy, not to exclude those Muslim states that took part, especially the Gulf states, and in particular Kuwait, which has become a launch pad for the crusading forces.I say to the American people we will continue to fight you and continue to conduct martyrdom operations inside and outside the United States until you depart from your oppressive course and abandon your follies and rein in your fools.You have to know that we are counting our dead, may God bless them, especially in Palestine, who are killed by your allies the Jews. We are going to take revenge for them from your blood, God willing, as we did on the day of New York. Remember what I said to you on that day about our security and your security. Baghdad, the seat of the Caliphate, will not fall to you, God willing, and we will fight you as long as we carry our guns. And if we fall, our sons will take our place.And may our mothers become childless if we leave any of you alive on our soil."

There are some significant points about the latest tape:  

  • In the previous taped messages, a third person used to introduce the speaker as bin Laden. In the latest one, bin Laden introduces himself.
  • The message has been recorded after December 14 because it refers to the capture of Saddam , which was announced by the Americans on that day, and to the earlier bomb blasts in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on November 8,2003, but does not refer to the blasts in Istanbul, Turkey, later that month, thereby indicating that Al Qaeda had probably no role in those blasts. Nor does it make any reference to any of the terrorist strikes in Iraq attributed to foreign jihadi terrorists. There is, in fact, no reference to the ground situation in Iraq. This possibly indicates that bin Laden has had no role in orchestrating the activities of the foreign jihadi terrorists in Iraq, whose activities appear to be co-ordinated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba from its clandestine bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
  • Whereas the first message was a pep talk to the Iraqi people before the invasion of Iraq began and the second a warning to the USA and its people after the coalition troops had occupied Iraq that the Muslims would wage a relentless jihad outside as well as inside the US till Iraq was liberated, the latest message contains a warning to the rulers of the Islamic countries in the region, who are collaborating with the Americans, and calls for an intensification of the jihad against them. It does not contain any fresh warning of terrorist action inside the US.
  • It attributes the capture  of Saddam to betrayal and treason without saying who was responsible..

The call for a jihad against  the rulers of the Islamic States of the region collaborating with the US says: "It is imperative that those governments have to be brought down, because in working with the infidels   they shed the blood of their brothers and sisters.Persian Gulf leaders are not capable of defending the Islamic nation. There is no dialogue except with weapons.The U.S.-led war in Iraq is part of a religious and economic war to control the Arab world.Today, Baghdad; tomorrow, Riyadh." It called upon Muslims to fight all efforts at achieving peace with Israel. "If you dont take them on in Jerusalem, theyll take your two holy sites," it said, referring to Mecca and Medina.

This may please be read in continuation of my assessment titled "2004: State of Jihadi Terrorism" and particularly its last para stating as follows: "During the year, there were reports of a debate in the jihadi circles in Pakistan about the wisdom of bin Ladens action in taking on the US directly by launching the terrorist strikes of 9/11 in the US homeland, which have provoked the US to use its military might to crush Al Qaeda and the IIF. Critics of bin Ladens action argue that the initial focus of their jihad should have been on identifying and weeding out the surrogates of the US in the Islamic world. This argument for an initial offensive against the surrogates seems to be enjoying increasing support. The two attacks on Musharraf were an indication of this. Amongst other identified surrogates whom they want to eliminate  are interim President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the members of the Iraqi governing council and the King of Jordan."( 4-1-04)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow and Convenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: [email protected] )

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Observer Research Foundation.

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