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Tape says al-Qaida behind Saudi bombings
( 2003-06-22 12:14) (Agencies)

A masked militant, speaking in a video filmed in a mud hut, warns of new al-Qaida suicide attacks and says Osama bin Laden's terror network carried out deadly bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

If authentic, the video would be the first al-Qaida claim of responsibility for the suicide attacks on foreign housing compounds in Riyadh, which killed 26 people and nine attackers, and bombings in Casablanca that killed 43 people and 12 attackers.

Obtained Saturday by The Associated Press, the video also appeared to reflect an increasing alliance between three top opponents of the United States in Afghanistan: Al-Qaida; the remnants of the former Taliban regime; and the followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan rebel leader whom the United States calls a terrorist and has tried to kill.

The man on the scratchy videocassette, who identified himself as Abu Haris Abdul Hakim, said he speaks in the name of all three groups. He spoke in Arabic, but did not give his nationality. His face was covered by a black turban.

The videotape was obtained from a senior intelligence official in Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami organization. The official confirmed that the speaker on the tape was speaking for Hekmatyar's party, which he said was working with al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The White House declined to comment on the video Saturday.

The speaker in the tape says al-Qaida is active and planning new attacks this month, saying, "Osama is alive and in Afghanistan." Though he suggests the attacks will take place in Afghanistan, he also points to wider operations.

"The recent attacks in Riyadh and Morocco were planned and they were part of our martyrdom operations. You will see more such attacks in the future," the speaker in the video said.

Saudi and U.S. officials have blamed al-Qaida for the Riyadh attacks. Moroccan authorities say an international terrorism ring carried out the Casablanca attacks, and they are looking at possible links to al-Qaida.

At one point, the man holds up a crudely written sign that says June 14th, apparently a reference to the date it was made - though it was impossible to confirm.

"Oh our brothers in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq: We will have good news for you very soon. And it will be about our supremacy over the Americans. This will be in the shape of martyrdom (suicide) attacks against Americans in the current month," Hakim said.

Insurgents in Afghanistan have stepped up their attacks against U.S. forces in recent months. On Saturday, U.S. forces flooded into a region in northeastern Afghanistan, near the border, to stop infiltrators from Pakistan carrying out attacks.

The speaker said the coming attacks would mimic those carried out in the Afghan cities and towns of Kabul, Kandahar and Spinboldak. On June 7, an explosive-laden taxi rammed a bus carrying German peacekeepers in Kabul, killing four Germans and an Afghan civilian. In both Kandahar and Spinboldak there have been grenade assaults and remote controlled bombings.

"Our mujahedeen brothers are regrouping in Kunar, Khost, Gardez, Jalalabad, Kabul and Logar," he said, referring to parts of Afghanistan. "They are engaged in preparations for the attack."

In the 35-minute video, the speaker is seen seated on a straw mat on the floor of a brick mud hut with a Kalashnikov assault rifle by his side as he read from several sheets of paper. With his face hidden, it was impossible to confirm his identity, though the intelligence official also said it was Hakim.

During the Taliban rule, Hakim was known to speak in the name of al-Qaida in interviews with the official news agency Bakhtar, run by the hard-line Islamic religious militia.

In the last week, pamphlets recruiting Afghans for suicide bombings have been circulated in Afghanistan's southeastern regions. The pamphlets - signed by Mullah Akhtar Uzmani, the Taliban's former military chief and a key lieutenant of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar - threatened a suicide bombing before the end of this month if three Afghan officials identified by name were not fired.

The speaker in the videotape said al-Qaida and its allies were "alive and have started operations again. And very soon we will bring the Americans and their agents to justice."

The intelligence official said al-Qaida, Taliban and Hekmatyar forces were working together but in most parts of the country they have separate commands.

In the northeastern regions of Afghanistan, al-Qaida forces are commanded by Abu Ali Al Maliki, who fought with Hekmatyar against other Afghan factions during the 1992-96 civil war, according to the intelligence official.

The main Taliban figure in that region is Mullah Abdul Raouf, believed to be the former Taliban governor of Paktia province, he said.

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