New Target and Tone
In demanding a pullout in exchange for a truce, however, bin Laden may have overreached, said another U.S. counterterrorism official. "It's almost too blatant," he said.
Although the tape ostensibly offered European leaders a truce if they remove forces from Iraq, U.S. counterterrorism officials said they believe its true target is the European public. Bin Laden refers to demonstrations in Europe as "positive interaction" and mentions "opinion polls, which indicate that most European peoples want peace."
The underlying threat by bin Laden remained the same as always, though: The United States, Israel, Jews and their allies will suffer their due.
The train bombings in Madrid last month, and the political upset in national elections immediately after them, bin Laden said, were "your commodity that was returned to you. . . . Injustice is inflicted on us and on you by your politicians, who send your sons, although you are opposed to this, to our countries to kill and get killed."
A foundation of this oft-repeated threat can be found in a book written in late November 2001 by Ayman Zawahiri, bin Laden's No. 2 man, while he was on the run from U.S. Army forces in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Zawahiri said jihadists should not attack U.S. armed forces who had invaded Afghanistan. Rather, they should strike "at the Americans and the Jews in our countries," meaning the secular countries where other jihadists came from -- Turkey, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
Zawahiri's message was a call to rally the Muslim populace, terrorism experts said. Yesterday's message was similarly directed at a local populace, but this time at a European one.
Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this article.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Experts say Osama bin Laden grasps the nature of Western democracies.
_____Bin Laden Tape_____
Excerpts: Read excerpts translated by the Associated Press of a tape purportedly made by the al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.