On Tape, Bin Laden Warns of Long War

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 24, 2006

BERLIN, April 23 -- Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged his followers to prepare for a drawn-out conflict with the Western world in a new audiotape broadcast Sunday, blaming what he called "a Crusader-Zionist war" for a long list of attacks on Islam in places from Darfur to Denmark.

"Your aircraft and tanks are destroying houses over the heads of our kinfolk and children in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan. Meanwhile, you smile in our faces, saying: 'We are not hostile to Islam; we are hostile to terrorists,' " bin Laden said, according to excerpts of the audiotape attributed to him and broadcast by the al-Jazeera network.

It was the first time bin Laden had been heard from since Jan. 19, when he offered "a long-term truce" if the United States and its allies withdrew their forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and allowed Islamic fundamentalists to rebuild those countries instead.

Before that, the 49-year-old Saudi had been publicly silent for more than a year. His face has not been seen since he appeared in a video recording broadcast a few days before the 2004 U.S. presidential election.

Intelligence sources said they believe he is hiding in Pakistan, despite a global manhunt and a $25 million reward for his capture posted shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

In the new remarks, bin Laden complained about Western interference in shattered Muslim regions around the world. He urged Muslims to go to the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan to fight international peacekeepers, saying their real mission was "to occupy the region and steal its oil under the cover of maintaining security there," according to a translation of the audiotape by the BBC.

The United States and other Western countries are supporting a plan to send U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur, where Arab militiamen backed by the Sudanese government are fighting rebel groups. Both sides are Muslim. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict, and 2 million have been displaced.

He also referred to the strife in the Russian republic of Chechnya and to the lawless country of Somalia.

"What is the meaning of the silence over the horrible Russian crimes in Chechnya and the lynching of Muslims and tearing apart of their bodies? What does the humiliation of Muslims in Somalia and the killing of 13,000 of our brother Muslims there mean?" bin Laden said. He did not elaborate on the reference to the deaths in Somalia.

He cited decisions by the United States and European nations to cut off aid to Palestinians after the recent legislative election victory by the militant group Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, as evidence of a Christian-Jewish conspiracy against Muslims.

"They are determined to continue with their Crusader campaigns against our nation, to occupy our countries, to plunder our resources and to enslave us," he said.

Al-Jazeera did not divulge how it obtained the tape, and it was unclear when it was recorded. But it appears to have been made in the past five weeks because bin Laden referred to a raid by Israeli forces on a Palestinian prison in Jericho on March 14.

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