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Osama hails Sept. 11 economic damage to US in new tape excerpt
( 2002-04-18 09:27 ) (7 )

Osama bin Laden praises the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as a major blow to the US economy in yet another videotape excerpt aired Wednesday.

In the latest tape excerpt, which was aired by the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, bin Laden appears to be jubilant at the damage the Sept. 11 attacks caused the US economy.

"The aftermath losses cannot be estimated in monetary terms due to its huge number and complexity. Its on the increase thank God," bin Laden said. "The amount lost, in the successful attacks reached more than US$1 trillion and we thank God for that. May God accept the brothers as martyrs in heaven."

Bin Laden also noted that the attacks prompted airlines to lay off thousands of workers and said he had read studies that showed that 70 percent of Americans have suffered from depression or psychological problems since the attacks.

The videotape aired on MBC appeared to be a segment of the one aired Monday on the Al Jazeera television network, which showed bin Laden sitting silently next to an aide who praised the attacks as a "great victory." MBC's footage showed the same men facing the camera in the same positions against an apparently identical background.

In other parts of the MBC tape, al Qaeda claims official responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks for the first time as spokesman Soliman Abu Kaith says, "We have done what God has ordered us to do. God called on us for 'jihad' and we complied. ... We have hit the head of evil on their home soil. We fulfilled God's wish, and He gives us what he promised us, either victory or death as martyrs."

The MBC excerpt also showed slain al Qaeda fighters and members of bin Laden's organization brandishing weapons. According to the station, evidence showed the tape was made in the first half of December. MBC officials did not say how they obtained the tape or what evidence they had indicating the date of the taping.

Speculation Over Bin Laden's Alleged Escape

US officials have not been able to capture bin Laden and many of his top officials, and it remains unclear whether he is dead or alive. Wednesday's airing of the latest tape excerpt came as The Washington Post reported that the Bush administration concluded bin Laden was in Tora Bora when US aircrafts began bombing the Afghan cave complex in late November but escaped shortly afterwards.

Citing unnamed intelligence officials, the Post reported that bin Laden escaped the Tora Bora complex in the first days of December because US troops were not immediately sent to pursue the al Qaeda leader.

"I don't think you can ever say with certainty, but we did conclude he was there, and that conclusion has strengthened with time," an unidentified official told the Post. "We have high confidence that he was there, and also high confidence, but not as high, that he got out. We have several accounts from people who are in detention, al Qaeda people who were free at the time and are not free now."

Civilian and military sources said in the Post report that US officials considered bin Laden's apparent escape a significant defeat for the United States and that some felt that Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who is in charge of the military operation in Afghanistan, misjudged the interests of Afghan allies. US officials, the report said, feel that they relied too much on Afghan allies and suspect they let bin Laden escape. Officials feel the best chance to capture bin Laden, the Post reported, may have passed.

"We messed up by not getting into Tora Bora sooner and letting the Afghans do all the work," a senior official told the Post.

"Clearly a decision point came when we started bombing Tora Bora and we decided just to bomb, because that's when he escaped. ... We didn't put US forces on the ground, despite all the brave talk, and that is what we have had to change since then."

Rumsfeld: No Evidence of Bin Laden's Whereabouts

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refuted the newspaper report, saying there had not been any solid evidence of bin Laden's whereabouts since the military campaign began in Afghanistan.

"We have seen repeated speculation about his possible location," Rumsfeld said. "But it has obviously not been verifiable. Had it been verifiable, one would have thought that someone might have done something about it. In terms of any solid evidence, there wasn't any. There isn't now."

However, at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday, officials said they had good reason to believe bin Laden may still be in Tora Bora.

"A few days ago we believed that he was in that area," said Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem.

Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended Franks' performance, saying he had done a "fine job." Rumsfeld also defended the United States' reliance on Afghan allies, indicating that the troops had achieved most of their mission's objective.

"We made a conscious decision, the US government, that there were organized Afghan forces on the ground that could be helpful to us," Rumsfeld said. "And how did it work out, all in all? Well, not bad. The Taliban have gone, the al Qaeda are on the run."

The full version of the tape shown Monday on Al Jazeera television is expected to be aired by the network on Thursday. The surfacing of these tape excerpts come a week after Rumsfeld noted during a Pentagon briefing that no one had heard from bin Laden and no new tapes had been released since last December.



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