Bin Laden returns to mark anniversary of 9/11 attacks as America remembers its dead
ON THE day that the United States remembered the dead of the 11 September attacks, the man responsible once again chose to celebrate the worst terrorist attack in history.
As he has on every 11 September since 2001, Osama bin Laden yesterday appeared in a new video message praising the 19 "champions" who hijacked four passenger jets and flew them to destruction, killing 3,000 people.
Yesterday's message from the al-Qaeda leader also contained the last testament of one of the 19, Waleed al-Shehri.
In his message, Shehri mocks the West, invoking the Koran to justify his act of mass murder.
"The difference between us and you, oh cowards, is that you fear death and are frightened by it, whereas we hope for it and seek it in God's path," he says.
The al-Qaeda video, entitled The Wills of the Heroes of the Raids on New York and Washington, was made by As-Sahab, ("the Cloud"), the terror network's media arm. It was distributed on a number of extremist websites.
It shows a still image of bin Laden, his beard dyed black, and carries a voiceover which intelligence analysts in the United States have concluded is that of the al-Qaeda founder.
Bin Laden also mentions the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a US air strike there. Zarqawi followed in the footsteps of Shehri and his brothers, who "fulfilled their promises to God".
Bin Laden concludes: "And now it is our turn."
Despite those ominous words, the 47-minute film contains no explicit threat of terrorist attacks in the future, instead exalting the actions of former attackers.
"This talk of mine consists of some reflections on the will of a young man who personally penetrated the most extreme degrees of danger and is a rarity among men: one of the 19 champions," bin Laden says.
"Shehri is one of these magnificent men whom the verses of the revelation affected in the same way they affected the first Muslims and picked them up and took him from the narrow worries of this world to the spaciousness of ... the hereafter, purifying his soul, firming up his heart and enlightening his sight and perception."
Shehri, like bin Laden a Saudi by birth, appears in the film blaming America for "every misfortune suffered by Islam and the Muslims" and calling for US forces to be expelled from Saudia Arabia.
Warning that the US will ultimately disintegrate like the Soviet Union, Shehri tells Americans: "We shall come at you from your front and back, your right and left."
He added: "As for our own fortune, it is not in this world. And we are not competing with you for this world because it does not equal in Allah's eyes the wing of a mosquito."
And as is common in al-Qaeda videos, the dead terrorist warned moderate Muslims that they must follow the extremist path, waging jihad against the West.
"The condition of Islam at the present time makes one cry ... in view of the weakness, humiliation, scorn and enslavement it is suffering because it neglected the obligations of Allah and His orders, and permitted His forbidden things and abandoned Jihad in Allah's path," he said.
There has not been a successful terrorist assault on American soil since the 2001 attacks, but US intelligence agencies remain convinced that al-Qaeda continues to plan more atrocities.
Michael McConnell, the US director of national intelligence, yesterday said he worries about "sleeper cells" in the country as well as "lone wolves who self-radicalise".
"We are safer today, but we are not safe. We have to maintain our vigilance," he told ABC television.
Like other US officials, Mr McConnell downplayed the significance of the bin Laden tape. The White House has said the al-Qaeda leader is "virtually impotent" as he hides somewhere in the lawless border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Repeated US attempts to find bin Laden in the area have come to nothing, and strained Washington's relations with both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, the Afghan foreign minister, yesterday insisted bin Laden was not in Afghanistan, suggesting he was on the Pakistani side of the border.
GROUND ZERO REMEMBERED
AMERICANS yesterday observed a minute's silence at the hour and place of the first 11 September attack, the sixth anniversary of a day remembered with solemnity and ceremony.
Speaking near Ground Zero, where the twin World Trade Centre towers were destroyed by hijacked planes, New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg told families of those who died: "Six years have passed and our place is still by your side."
Rain fell on the sombre ceremony as some wore funereal black to remember the 2,750 people killed when the towers were destroyed one after the other. Their names were read out loud over four hours.
Similar ceremonies took place in Washington, where the Pentagon was attacked by a third plane, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a fourth plane crashed after passengers fought with al-Qaeda hijackers that day.
Bagpipes played, accompanied by a steady drum beat, in a New York city park neighbouring the former disaster site which is now a busy construction zone.
The first of four New York minutes of silence - followed by the ringing of church bells - took place at 8:46 local time, the hour the first plane struck. Other minutes were set for when the second plane struck and when each tower fell.
Families had protested at Mr Bloomberg's plan to hold the ceremony away from Ground Zero and he allowed limited access.
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