WASHINGTON (AP) – The new audiotape of Osama bin Laden is an authentic, unedited and recent recording of the al-Qaida leader, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday after completing a technical and linguistic analysis.
The CIA and National Security Agency, which conducted the study, concluded the tape is what it seems: bin Laden himself, reading a statement that promises new terrorism against the United States.
“It is clear that the tape was made in the last several weeks as well,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
It was the first definitive evidence in almost a year that bin Laden survived the U.S.-led war on his home of Afghanistan in the months after Sept. 11, 2001.
While noting “it cannot be stated with 100 percent certainty,” McClellan told reporters that intelligence experts were sure that bin Laden had spoken.
“It’s a reminder that we need to continue doing everything we can to go after these terrorist networks and their leaders wherever they are, and we will,” McClellan said.
The audio message gives little clue to bin Laden’s location or his health, intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some have wondered if he used audio, instead of video, to conceal injuries, sickness or a change in appearance.
Officials believe he is probably hiding in a remote mountainous region along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There have been rumors that bin Laden was wounded or suffered some kind of kidney ailment.
Officials are unsure why bin Laden chose now to speak.
Perhaps he has recovered from an injury, or at last feels secure enough in his location to put out a message to his followers.
He also refers to the ongoing U.S.-Iraqi conflict, and may have spoken in anticipation of a coming war.
Previous public statements from bin Laden have served as preludes to terrorist attacks he masterminded, officials said, and the broadcast of the message was a determining factor in a spate of terror alerts in the United States and elsewhere last week.
“It is time we get even. You will be killed just as you kill,” bin Laden said, after accusing the United States and its allies of a litany of wrongs.
Officials also worry the tape could inspire his followers to strike, even without orders from the al-Qaida hierarchy.
In the message, bin Laden apparently refers to the killing of a U.S. diplomat in Amman, Jordan, on Oct. 28, which is the most recent event he noted. It is unknown if al-Qaida orchestrated the killing.
An al-Jazeera reporter said he received the tape last Tuesday in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Bin Laden also praises several more terrorist attacks by suspected Islamic militants between April and October, including the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, on Oct. 12 that left close to 200 people dead, and the takeover of a theater in Moscow, in late October, by Chechen rebels.
Previously, the last certain evidence bin Laden was alive was recorded on Nov. 9, 2001, when he had dinner with some followers. A videotape of the meal was recovered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Late in December, another tape of bin Laden giving a statement was broadcast.
He appeared gaunt and possibly wounded. The references in the tape suggested it was filmed in late November or early December, but officials could not be certain.
On Dec. 10, in the Tora Bora area of Afghanistan where bin Laden was believed to be hiding, U.S. personnel intercepted a radio transmission that was believed to have come from the al-Qaida leader.
But it was not recorded and never matched to his voice, officials have said.