DOHA, Qatar (AP) – A raspy voice believed to be Osama bin Laden’s urged Iraqis to carry out suicide attacks against Americans and draw U.S. troops into combat in Iraqi cities. U.S. officials said the call broadcast yesterday proves the world must fear Saddam Hussein’s ties to the al-Qaida terror network.
The appeal was made in a voice tape aired by the Al-Jazeera satellite television station throughout the Arab world and believed by U.S. officials to be authentic. It was broadcast as U.S. officials warned of devastating attacks within the United States and the Persian Gulf, where U.S. forces are massing for a possible attack against Iraq.
“This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored,” Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Budget Committee.
Some analysts wondered at bin Laden’s motives for issuing a statement supporting Iraq, given many countries’ skepticism of U.S. allegations of Iraqi-al-Qaida links. Others worried the recording would inflame Muslims against U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf region.
On the tape, broadcast on the first day of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, the speaker advised Iraqis how to fight the Americans, based on al-Qaida’s experience in Afghanistan.
“We stress the importance of martyrdom operations against the enemy, these attacks that have scared Americans and Israelis like never before,” the man identified as bin Laden said.
“We advise about the importance of drawing the enemy into long, close and exhausting fighting, taking advantage of camouflaged positions in plains, farms, mountains and cities,” he said.
The speaker urged the Iraqis to draw the Americans into urban combat, saying “the thing that the enemy fears the most is to fight a city war.”
the enemy fears the most is to fight a city war.”
U.S. military planners fear Saddam might ring Baghdad with his best troops of the elite Republican Guard and draw U.S. forces into bloody street fighting where they could not use their high-tech weapons for fear of causing massive civilian casualties.
The speaker also told Iraqis not to worry about American smart bombs and laser-guided weapons because “they work on only the clear, obvious targets.” He encouraged Iraqis to use deception techniques to neutralize American technological superiority.
Some Middle East experts have questioned ties between bin Laden’s Islamic extremists and Saddam’s government, which nominally adheres to a Pan-Arabic socialistic doctrine called Baathism.
In the tape, however, the speaker said it was acceptable for Muslims to fight on behalf of Iraqi “socialists” because “in these circumstances” their interests “intersect in fighting against the Crusaders,” or Christians.
Yasser Thabet, a broadcast editor at Al-Jazeera, said the station received the tape by the same channels as previous bin Laden statements, but he did not give details.
Bin Laden often used Al-Jazeera to broadcast statements during the Afghanistan war until the elusive terrorist leader vanished after the battle at Tora Bora in December 2001.
Al-Jazeera is not widely seen in Iraq because few Iraqis are permitted to have satellite dishes. However, many of them listen to foreign Arabic language broadcasts which relayed details of the broadcast.