Bin Laden tape threatens attacks on US, Israel

12 February 2003
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden released made his first contact since November with the outside world on 11 February, issuing a call to Iraqis to stand firm against a US attack and vowing more suicide attacks on Israel. The message, broadcast via audiotape on the Doha-based Al-Jazeera satellite TV station, threatened attacks which would be 'a disaster [the US and Israel] have never experienced before'.

Bin Laden's intervention fuels fears of an imminent terrorist attack by Al Qaeda or its supporters, which have been growing in recent days. Head of the CIA, George Tenet, testifying to Congress on the same day as the broadcast, said that the US was receiving the 'most specific' threats since the 11 September attacks of an impending terrorist strike against US targets at home or in the Middle East. These might be timed to coincide with the end of Eid al-Adha on 15 February. 'The intelligence is not idle chatter on the part of terrorists and their associates,' he said. 'It is consistent with both our knowledge of Al Qaeda doctrine and our knowledge of plots this network -has been working on for years.' Tenet also reiterated the accusations of US Secretary of State Colin Powell in his UN Security Council indictment on 5 February: the intelligence chief alleged that Iraq had 'provided training in poisons and gases to two Al Qaeda operatives' and that Iraq-based terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarkawi had been behind poison plots in Europe. In the UK, army tanks and troops were deployed at the main London Heathrow airport to guard against any attack and reassure the public. Not only Western airports have tightened security measures: increased activity by security forces has been reported around the perimeter of Dubai airport. The London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission said that the link being made between the end of Eid and a terrorist threat was 'unbelievable rubbish'.

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