17 DAYS AFTER 9/11 -- Bin Laden: "I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle. It is the United States, which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children and common people ..." - Usama bin Laden, Interview with Pakistani newspaper Ummat (Karachi), September 28, 2001. Full text here. Osama bin Laden confirmed this statement in 3 other magazines, including the AFP.
Bin Laden: "I Categorically State That I Have Not Done This"
ISLAMABAD, Sept 16 (IslamOnline & News Agencies) - Osama Bin Laden on Sunday denied any involvement in last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, new agencies reported.
"The U.S. is pointing the finger at me, but I categorically state that I have not done this," bin Laden said in a statement faxed to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) private news agency.
"Those who have done it, they have done it in their personal interest," bin Laden said in the statement, which AIP said was sent to them by Bin Laden's aide, Abdul Samad, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
It was the first time that bin Laden had issued an official personal denial of any involvement in the attacks.
Previous denials had been issued by unidentified aides or by officials of the Taliban, the militia that controls most of Afghanistan.
Bin Laden said he did not have the means by which to organize the attacks and talked of the many restrictions placed on his contacts with the outside world by Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"I'm living in Afghanistan. I'm a follower of Amir Ul-Momineen [Omar] who does not allow me to participate in such activities," AFP quoted the statement, written in Arabic, as saying.
The United States immediately accused bin Laden of being the prime suspect in last week's attacks, which has so far left more than 5,000 people missing.
Bin Laden, a Saudi-born dissident, moved to Afghanistan in 1996 after being forced to leave Sudan.
The Taliban has refused demands to extradite him for trial in alleged connection with a string of attacks on U.S. interests, including the 1998 bombing of two embassies in Africa in which more than 200 people died.
U.S. President George W. Bush Saturday declared that the United States was "at war" with the "barbarians" responsible for the terrorist strikes and called bin Laden a "prime suspect."
He promised "sweeping, sustained, and effective" retaliation for the attacks and issued a direct warning to bin Laden.
"If he thinks he can hide and run from the United States and our allies, he will be sorely mistaken," Bush said, AFP reported.
The tone of Bush's rhetoric has been seen as an attempt to mobilize the nation for an imminent deployment of ground troops in Afghanistan in a bid to eliminate bin Laden and topple the Taliban regime.
However, experts have warned against acting on circumstantial evidence that may not prove bin Laden was responsible.
The U.S. is rallying an international coalition in support of whatever action it decides to take.
On Saturday, the U.S. won a pledge of backing from Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, whose logistical support would be crucial for any attack on the long war-torn Southwest Asian country.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly stated that his government is fully committed to backing the United States following Tuesday's attacks on Washington and New York, BBC's online news service reported Saturday.
Shortly after the news of U.S. strikes, Musharraf said his government "strongly condemned this most brutal and horrible act of terror and violence," adding that the world should unite to fight terrorism.
Pakistan's relations with the U.S. have fluctuated over the years.
The two countries were close, particularly in supporting the mujahideen (fighters) during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but their relationship has been more turbulent in recent years.
The United States has been widely accused by Pakistanis of being anti-Muslim particularly due to its current support of India, which maintains a brutal occupation in the "disputed" region of Kashmir, and for its backing of Israel in the Middle East conflict.
The U.S. has also been widely condemned as the main force behind the 11-year U.N. sanctions against Iraq, especially with continuous U.S. and British air-raids in the north and south of the country, under the banner of "protecting the Kurdish and Shi'ite communities".
Pakistanis have further condemned the U.S. for imposing sanctions against Pakistan for pursuing nuclear tests, a measure it refrained from taking before Pakistan's nuclear rival, India, detonated their devices first.
Meanwhile, Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar's spokesman warned the Pakistani president that cooperating with a U.S. military action would prompt a backlash from his own people.
"Pakistan is a Muslim nation and the Pakistan government should look at the views of its own people who don't want the U.S. to attack Afghanistan. If they cooperate with the United States there will be very serious consequences for Pakistan."
Pakistani newspapers reported Friday that the U.S. had requested the use of the country's airspace to mount attacks on bin Laden's bases in neighboring Afghanistan.
A decision to actively cooperate with a U.S. attack on Afghanistan would represent a major departure for Pakistan, one of only three countries to recognize the ruling Taliban.
For its part, Pakistan still says there is no evidence to link bin Laden to the attacks and it desires evidence to help sway public opinion before committing itself to any drastic step, the BBC reported.
"Pakistan … has a right to ask about the evidence on which the USA has based its conclusion that Osama is the prime suspect," the Pakistani paper The Nation reported.
"At the same time, Pakistan has definite problems in its relationship with the USA, and a country which is under so many sanctions as Pakistan, would certainly like to know why it should go beyond a bare minimum," The Nation added.
The paper also said that although the government has hard choices to make, it must keep the national interest in mind.
Meanwhile, referring to the Pakistani government's situation, the Taliban warned that its fighters would retaliate with force if any neighboring country provided assistance to the United States for an all-out attack on Afghanistan, AIP reported.
"The possibility of a massive attack by our mujahideen [fighters] cannot be ruled out if any neighboring country offers its ground or air bases to U.S. forces," the agency quoted a Taliban foreign ministry statement as saying.
"They might be compelled to enter into that country and responsibility for the negative consequences would rest on that country," it said.
The Taliban statement again denied that Bin Laden could have been involved in the U.S. attacks.
The Afghan opposition's envoy to Iran, Mohammad Kheirkhah, said Saturday that he hoped the United States would not attack his country in retaliation for the September 11th attacks, and that any attack should "spare the people".
"I hope that my country is not the target of an American attack," Kheirkhah told AFP. "But if, in the context of the anti-terrorist battle, the Americans want to do something, let them act only against terrorists, while sparing the people," he said.
In a statement released to the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera and reported on by CNN on September 17, 2001,
Bin Laden said, .I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons. I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders. rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations..
Asked if he carried out 9/11 by the Pakistani newspaper Ummat on September 28, 2001, Bin Laden responded, .I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle..
The only person to .take credit. for the attacks was a dubiously fat Bin Laden lookalike who appeared on a videotape that was broadcast on December 13, 2001. Freedom Of Information Act requests attempting to validate the tape.s authenticity filed with the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and CENTCOM were met with a refusal to release any records
The tape was allegedly found in a house in Jalalabad after anti-Taliban forces moved in. It featured a fat Osama laughing and joking about how he.d carried out 9/11. The video was also mistranslated in order to manipulate viewer opinion and featured .Bin Laden. praising two of the hijackers, only he got their names wrong.
This Osama also uses the wrong hand to write with and wears gold rings, a practice considered abhorrent to the Muslim faith.
A German TV Channel One investigation found that the White House.s translation of the video was inaccurate and .manipulative.. One of the experts employed by the program to study the video concluded that the translation was .Very problematic . at the most important places where it is held to prove the guilt of Bin Laden, it is not identical with the Arabic..
.Prof. Gernot Rotter, professor of Islamic and Arabic Studies at the Asia-Africa Institute at the University of Hamburg sums it up: .The American translators who listened to the tapes and transcribed them apparently wrote a lot of things in that they wanted to hear but that cannot be heard on the tape no matter how many times you listen to it..
Context of 'October 7, 2001: Bin Laden Issues Video, Warning the US, but Does Not Claim Responsibility for 9/11'
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A close aide to Osama bin Laden reports that bin Laden denies any role in the previous day’s attacks on the United States, but has praised those responsible for them. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001] The aide, one of bin Laden’s senior lieutenants, speaks by satellite telephone with Palestinian journalist Jamal Ismail, who is the Islamabad bureau chief of Abu Dhabi Television. [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001] Ismail has long-standing ties with bin Laden and has conducted several interviews with him over the last few years. [Associated Press, 9/13/2001] The aide, who does not want to be publicly named, calls Ismail early in the day from a hideout somewhere in Afghanistan. He quotes bin Laden as calling the attacks on the US “punishment from almighty Allah” for America’s attempt to “control the entire world by force.” He tells Ismail, “Osama bin Laden thanked Almighty Allah and bowed before him when he heard this news [of the attacks].” But, the aide says, bin Laden has stated, “I have no information about the attackers or their aims and I don’t have any links with them.” [Associated Press, 9/12/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/13/2001; Reuters, 9/13/2001; BBC, 9/14/2001]
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban says that Osama bin Laden has told them he played no role in the September 11 attacks on the United States. Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, tells Reuters, “We asked from him, [and] he told [us] we don’t have any hand in this action.” [Reuters, 9/13/2001] Zaeef says bin Laden has been cut off from all outside communication, including telephone and the Internet, and so it would have been impossible for him to have coordinated the attacks. [Reuters, 9/13/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001] Zaeef says the Taliban is willing to cooperate with the US in investigating the 9/11 attacks, stating, “We are ready for any help according to [Islamic] Sharia law.” But he stresses that if America has any evidence against bin Laden, it should provide it to the Taliban, which has sheltered him as a “guest.” [Reuters, 9/13/2001]
Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi multimillionaire considered by the United States to be the prime suspect for the 9/11 attacks, issues a statement through the Arabic satellite television channel Al Jazeera, in which he denies responsibility for those attacks. [CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] In the statement, which is read out by an Al Jazeera announcer, bin Laden says: “The US government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it. I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons. I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations.” The statement is signed “Sheik Osama bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001] President Bush dismisses bin Laden’s denial. Asked whether he believes it, Bush responds: “No question he is the prime suspect. No question about that.” [White House, 9/16/2001; Baltimore Sun, 9/17/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney says he has “no doubt that [bin Laden] and his organization played a significant role” in the 9/11 attacks. [NBC, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] On this day, bin Laden also faxes a statement to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency, in which he denies responsibility for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001). [Guardian, 9/17/2001] Previously, on September 12, he denied any involvement, according to a close aide of his (see September 12, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/13/2001] On September 13, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban said bin Laden told them he had played no role in the attacks (see September 13, 2001). [Reuters, 9/13/2001] But in mid-December 2001, the Pentagon will release a video which apparently shows bin Laden indicating his complicity (see Mid-November 2001). [BBC, 12/14/2001; Fox News, 12/14/2001] However, there will be questions about the authenticity of this film (see December 13, 2001). [Guardian, 12/15/2001]
Bin Laden says in an interview, “I have already said that I am not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States (see September 16, 2001). As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other human beings as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of battle.… The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the US system but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology can survive. They may be anyone, from Russia to Israel and from India to Serbia. In the US itself, there are dozens of well-organized and well-equipped groups capable of causing large-scale destruction. Then you cannot forget the American Jews, who have been annoyed with President Bush ever since the Florida elections and who want to avenge him.… Then there are intelligence agencies in the US, which require billions of dollars worth of funds from Congress and the government every year.… They needed an enemy.… Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked who carried out the attacks.” [Daily Ummat (Karachi), 9/28/2001]
In a recorded statement broadcast on television worldwide, Osama bin Laden issues a strongly worded message to the United States, but makes no claim of responsibility for 9/11. The recording is broadcast on the Al Jazeera television network within an hour of the first US strikes on Afghanistan, and is then shown by CNN. There is no date on the tape and no immediate way of determining where it was made. [New York Times, 10/8/2001] Bin Laden is shown sitting in a stone cave. His top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appears at his side. [Associated Press, 10/8/2001] Referring to the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden says, “What the United States tastes today is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years.” He praises those responsible, saying, “I ask God Almighty to elevate their status and grant them paradise.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] It is the first time he has spoken publicly about 9/11. But he makes no claim in his statement of having been responsible for the attacks. [Associated Press, 10/8/2001] He has previously explicitly denied responsibility for 9/11 (see September 16, 2001 and September 28, 2001). Bin Laden concludes his message warning, “[N]either the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed.” [BBC, 10/7/2001] The following day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will tell reporters that, after watching this message, President Bush concluded that bin Laden “virtually took responsibility” for 9/11. [CNN, 10/8/2001]
A conversation between Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda spokesman Suliman abu Ghaith, and Khaled al-Harbi, a veteran of al-Qaeda’s jihad in Bosnia, is videotaped. A portion of the taped conversation is later said to be found by the US and will be used as evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in 9/11. [Unknown, 2001; Guardian, 12/13/2001; Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 28-9] According to a translation released by the Pentagon, the man said to be bin Laden says: “… we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all… (inaudible)… due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is what we had hoped for.” He continues: “We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day. We had finished our work that day and had the radio on. It was 5:30 p.m. our time… Immediately, we heard the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. We turned the radio station to the news from Washington… At the end of the newscast, they reported that a plane just hit the World Trade Center… After a little while, they announced that another plane had hit the World Trade Center. The brothers who heard the news were overjoyed by it.” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 ] The release of the tape, which will be said to be found by US intelligence officers in Jalalabad, will be a major news story, and the tape will be taken by the media as proof of bin Laden’s guilt. President Bush comments, “For those who see this tape, they’ll realize that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, he has no conscience and no soul, that he represents the worst of civilization.” British foreign secretary Jack Straw adds, “By boasting about his involvement in the evil attacks, Bin Laden confirms his guilt.” [BBC, 12/14/2001; Fox News, 12/14/2001; CNN, 12/16/2001] However, the tape will later be disputed from three points of view:
The accuracy of the translation will be questioned (see December 20, 2001). For example, the man thought to be bin Laden does not say “we calculated in advance the number of casualties,” but “we calculated the number of casualties;”
An analyst will conclude that the tape was actually made earlier as a part of a US-run sting operation (see (September 26, 2001));
Some commentators will question whether the person in the video is actually bin Laden (see December 13, 2001).
Following the release of a home video in which Osama bin Laden apparently confesses to involvement in 9/11 (see Mid-November 2001), some commentators question its authenticity, as a number of strange facts about the video soon emerge. For example, all previous videos had been made with the consent of bin Laden, and usually released to the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera. This video was supposedly recorded without his knowledge, found in a house in Afghanistan, and then passed to the CIA by an unknown person or group. Experts point out that it would be possible to fake such a video. So many people doubt the video’s authenticity that President Bush soon makes a statement, saying it was “preposterous for anybody to think this tape was doctored. Those who contend it’s a farce or a fake are hoping for the best about an evil man.” [Guardian, 12/15/2001] Some commentators will suggest that the person thought to be bin Laden is not actually the al-Qaeda leader. For example, arabist Kevin Barrett will say that the person in the video is “at least 40 or 50 pounds heavier, and his facial features [are] obviously different.” [Capital Times (Madison), 2/14/2006] The man said to be bin Laden also makes some questionable statements in the video:
“I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building…” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 ] The jet fuel spilled from the planes burned up about 10 minutes after impact (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001), the towers’ structure did not melt (see September 12, 2001-February 2002), and the towers were not made of iron, but steel. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6 ] Bin Laden had studied civil engineering at university and had experience as a construction contractor. [Burke, 2004, pp. 47; Laden, 2005, pp. xii-xiii] It is unclear why he would think the towers were made of iron.
“We did not reveal the operation to [the brothers who conducted the operation] until they are there and just before they boarded the planes.” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 ] All the hijackers purchased tickets for the 9/11 flights about two weeks in advance (see August 25-September 5, 2001). The six plot leaders had flight training (see July 6-December 19, 2000, (June 28-December 2000), January-February 2001, and May 5 and 10, 2000), and some of the other 13 are thought to have assisted with target surveillance and casing flights (see May 24-August 14, 2001, August 1, 2001, June 2001 and August 2001).
“Those who were trained to fly didn’t know the others. One group of people did not know the other group.” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 ] The opposite is true: the pilots intermingled with the muscle and the teams for the various planes mixed (see April 23-June 29, 2001, April 12-September 7, 2001, and June 27-August 23, 2001).
There are reports that bin Laden had from four to ten look-alike doubles at the time. [Agence France-Presse, 10/7/2001; London Times, 11/19/2001]
Osama bin Laden makes a new video statement about 9/11, again denying the US has enough evidence against him to warrant an attack on Afghanistan (see September 16, 2001 and September 28, 2001), which he calls “a vicious campaign based on mere suspicion.” However, in what Professor Bruce Lawrence calls “his most extended and passionate celebration of the hijackers of 9/11,” he praises the 19 who carried out “the blessed strikes against global unbelief and its leader America.” He says of the hijackers, “It was not nineteen Arab states that did this deed. It was not Arab armies or ministries who humbled the oppressor who harms us in Palestine and elsewhere. It was nineteen post-secondary school students—I beg Allah almighty to accept them—who shook America’s throne, struck its economy right in the heart, and dealt the biggest military power a mighty blow, by the grace of Allah Almighty.” He continues by saying that the hijackers “are the people who have given up everything for the sake of ‘There is no Allah but Allah.’” He also criticizes Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and suggests that Israel is trying to expand its borders to Medina, currently in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden also attacks the sanctions against Iraq, which he notes have resulted in “the murder of over a million children.” [Laden, 2005, pp. 145-157] Bin Laden’s left arm appears to be injured in the video, fueling speculation he was wounded in the battle for Afghanistan [CNN, 7/23/2002] No new videotapes of Bin Laden speaking are released for nearly three years after this (see October 29, 2004). [BBC, 10/30/2004]
CHRONOLOGY-Bin Laden messages since Sept. 11, 2001
Sept 7 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said in a video issued ahead of the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks that the United States was vulnerable despite its economic and military power.
It was not clear when the tape, acquired by Reuters Television from a web trawler in Europe, was made.
Following is a chronology of major statements attributed to bin Laden.
Sept. 24, 2001 - Al Jazeera television quotes bin Laden statement urging Pakistanis to fight any assault on Afghanistan by "crusader Americans".
Oct. 7 - Bin Laden taunts "infidel" Bush over Sept. 11 attacks; says in a videotape shown by Al Jazeera that U.S. will not live in peace until Palestinians can do the same.
Nov. 3 - Bin Laden video shown by Al Jazeera calls Muslims supporting Bush's Afghanistan "crusade" apostates.
Dec. 13 - Bin Laden says was optimistic about Sept. 11 attacks but dared not hope they would bring down World Trade Center towers, according to video U.S. says confirms his guilt.
Dec. 26 - Bin Laden says in video on Al Jazeera that Sept. 11 attacks intended to stop U.S. support for Israel.
Jan. 31, 2002 - CNN airs Oct. 11 interview by Al Jazeera reporter in which bin Laden says "battle has moved inside the United States".
May 19 - Bin Laden extols merits of martyrdom in video estimated to be two to four months old.
Sept. 10 - Al Jazeera runs audiotape it says is bin Laden praising Sept. 11 attackers as men who changed history.
Oct. 6 - Al Jazeera runs tape of bin Laden saying any U.S. attack on Muslim world would be repaid "twofold".
Oct. 14 - Bin Laden praises anti-Western attacks in Kuwait and Yemen; warns United States and Israel of more.
Nov. 12 - Al Jazeera airs apparent bin Laden tape warning U.S. allies against supporting "White House gang of butchers".
Feb. 11, 2003 - Message believed to be bin Laden urges Muslims to fight U.S. and repel any war against Iraq.
Sept. 10 - Al Jazeera airs video of bin Laden and Al Qaeda second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri descending mountainside calling for jihad and praising the 9/11 hijackers.
Oct. 18 - Two apparent bin Laden audiotapes vowing more attacks in and outside United States are broadcast.
Dec. 20 - Tape purportedly from bin Laden accuses Arab governments heeding U.S. calls for democracy of being "infidel" agents of United States.
April 15, 2004 - Arab TV airs audiotape offering truce to Europeans if they withdraw troops from Muslim nations.
May 6 - Recording purportedly from bin Laden calls for jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Oct. 30 - Days before the U.S. presidential election, bin Laden in a video tells Americans Bush has deceived them and the United States could face more strikes like Sept. 11.
Dec. 16 - Bin Laden in an audiotape blesses a group of Saudi militants who stormed the U.S. consulate in Jeddah on Dec. 6.
Dec. 27 - Bin Laden in an audiotape urges Iraqis to boycott January parliamentary elections and says anyone who takes part would be an "infidel".
June 30, 2006 - Bin Laden in an audiotape praises the late Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Musab al-Zarqawi as a "lion of jihad".
July 1 - Bin Laden warns Iraq's Shi'ite majority of retaliation for attacks on Sunni Arabs and says his group will fight the United States anywhere in the world.
July 6 - A year on from bombings in London which killed 52 people, al Qaeda issues a video with comments from Zawahri, bin Laden and one bomber.
Sept. 7, 2007 - Bin Laden appears in a videotape marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. In a message to the American people, bin Laden says the United States is vulnerable despite its economic and military power.