Al-Jazeera Broadcasts Audio Tape Purportedly by Osama bin Laden

By Steven R. Hurst
The Associated Press
Sunday, April 23, 2006; 11:33 AM

CAIRO, Egypt -- Osama bin Laden issued ominous new threats in an audiotape broadcast Sunday, saying the West was at war with Islam and calling on his followers to go to Sudan to fight a proposed U.N. force.

In his first new message in three months, bin Laden said the West's decision to cut off funds to the Palestinians because their Hamas leaders refuse to recognize Israel proved that the United States and Europe were conducting "a Zionist crusader war on Islam."

"The blockade which the West is imposing on the government of Hamas proves that there is a Zionist crusader war on Islam," said the speaker on the tape broadcast by the Al-Jazeera network.

"I say that this war is the joint responsibility of the people and the governments. While the war continues, the people renew their allegiance to their rulers and politicians and continue to send their sons to our countries to fight us."

The voice on the tape sounded strong and resembled that on previous recordings attributed to bin Laden. There was no way to independently verify the authenticity of the tape.

"We are aware of the tape and a technical analysis of the recording is being conducted," a U.S. intelligence official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin said bin Laden had decided to attack Israel to deflect growing Arab animosity toward al-Qaeda.

"When he attacks Israel, this is something the Arab world can agree upon," Gissin said. "He has been criticized for the destruction and carnage he's causing the Muslim nation. He's looking for another justification ...

"Criticizing Israel sounds more politically correct."

Al-Qaeda is believed to have no direct links to Hamas, which is an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood, but they share an anti-Israel ideology that calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Recent media reports in the Middle East have said al-Qaeda is building cells in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon and Sudan.

Israel has indicted two West Bank militants for al-Qaeda membership and a Palestinian security official has acknowledged al-Qaeda is "organizing cells and gathering supporters," although Israeli officials say the inroads appear preliminary.

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