Bin Laden Tape Urges Insurgents to Forgo Talks

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 2, 2006

Osama bin Laden, in his second recorded message in 48 hours, warned Iraqi insurgents yesterday not to participate in negotiations with the elected government in Baghdad and urged Muslims in Somalia to violently oppose any challenge to Islamists who have seized power in that country.

"There will be no bargaining with the crusaders and the apostates" in Iraq, bin Laden said in a clear reference to efforts by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to draw insurgent groups into negotiations and amnesty agreements with his government. "There will be no half-solutions." Maliki and his appointed predecessors since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq would be punished as soon as American military forces are defeated, he said.

Bin Laden's message, like one released Thursday night, was contained in an audio recording posted on a jihadist Web site. The fifth such message this year, its mention of events occurring over the past week in Iraq and Somalia indicated an ever-faster turnaround time.

The al-Qaeda leader has not appeared in publicly released photographs or videos since 2004. A U.S. counterterrorism official, who said there was "no reason to doubt" the authenticity of yesterday's recording, speculated that security concerns had prevented bin Laden from participating in the more time-consuming and labor-intensive production of a video. Bin Laden is believed to be in the mountainous, ungoverned border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda's media products have grown in sophistication since the poorly lighted, grainy videos that characterized its propaganda efforts several years ago. Deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri's eulogy to al-Qaeda's Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released a week ago was a slickly produced video. Zawahiri was seated in front of a full-size, framed picture of Zarqawi taken from Zarqawi's own video released before his death in a U.S. air raid in Iraq last month.

Yesterday's bin Laden message was addressed to the "nation of Islam in general, and our people and brothers the mujaheddin in Iraq and Somalia in particular." According to a translation of the 17-minute tape provided by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors jihadist Internet sites, it had three parts.

Bin Laden hailed the selection of Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as Zarqawi's successor. He advised Muhajer, which the U.S. military has said is a pseudonym for Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri, to continue unifying Sunni insurgent groups and to "concentrate his fighting on the Americans, as well as their allies and supporters."

The tape opened with a warning to residents of the predominantly Shiite south, saying they could not join the Iraqi armed forces fighting insurgents in Sunni cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi in central and western Iraq, "while at the same time hoping that their areas will be safe from reaction and harm."

He called on all Muslims to help the insurgency "with money and men," and labeled efforts to stabilize Iraq through talks with the government "nothing more than deceit."

U.S. counterterrorism officials interpreted a lengthy passage on Somalia as reflecting bin Laden's concern that the dispersion of the al-Qaeda network by the U.S. terrorism fight has diminished his claimed leadership of a worldwide movement. But at the very least, bin Laden demonstrated a close and current knowledge of events in the Horn of Africa.

He called Abdullahi Yusuf, who heads the largely powerless, U.S.-backed Somali transition government in Baidoa, an "agent" of foreign apostates, and he condemned Yusuf's recent call for support from neighboring Ethiopia. About 100 Ethiopian troops in military vehicles were seen yesterday crossing the border into Somalia, the Associated Press reported.

Among several international efforts to stabilize Somalia, the African Union and the Arab League said last week that they would send a team of experts to assess the situation. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has also called for talks among regional governments. Bin Laden yesterday warned "every Muslim in Somalia" to reject such efforts, calling Saleh in particular "an obedient American agent."

The Bush administration funded secular warlords who were defeated in early June trying to get control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, by militias allied to the Council of Islamic Courts. Warning the council not to shelter al-Qaeda fugitives it believes are in Somalia, the administration has called on the Islamists to negotiate with the Yusuf government. Last week, Jendayi E. Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said the administration had warned Saudi Arabia and Yemen to end financial and weapons support for council forces.

Bin Laden called on Islamic forces to attack the Yusuf government "quickly and make sure he doesn't flee." Regarding intervention by "international forces," he instructed, "prepare what is needed, especially the mines for the tanks and the [rocket-propelled grenades] for the armored vehicles."

He recalled the 1994 withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Somalia after a warlord attack killed 18 Special Forces troops. "This time," he said, "victory will be far easier."

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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