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Bin Laden says U.S. economy was target

Experts say bin Laden's gaunt, pale appearance might mean his health problems are worsening.
Experts say bin Laden's gaunt, pale appearance might mean his health problems are worsening.  

DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Osama bin Laden sought to justify the September 11 terror attacks during his latest videotaped statement broadcast in full Thursday by the Arabic-language news channel Al-Jazeera.

As in past statements, bin Laden's comments suggested the holy war being waged by his al Qaeda terrorist network was a response to U.S.-led attacks against Iraq and U.S. support for Israel in the Middle East conflict.

The Saudi-born fugitive described the attacks as "just reactions to what's happening against our children in Palestine, in Iraq, in Somalia, in southern Sudan, in Kashmir."

He said the September 11 attacks have "shaken the throne of America and hit hard the American economy at its heart and its core." Bin Laden said that if the U.S. economy suffers enough, Americans will withdraw from those countries mentioned.

The alleged mastermind behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon said they were easy to carry out and have shown America's economic strength to have fragile underpinnings. "It collapsed very easily."

Bin Laden, dressed in military fatigues -- a rifle propped beside him in front of a brown cloth -- said he was recording the tape "to talk about some of the implications" of recent events, although it is not known precisely when the tape was shot.

CNN's Major Garrett says the Bush administration has decided Osama bin Laden no longer merits the attention he once commanded (December 27)

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Also unknown: bin Laden's whereabouts or even whether he is dead or alive.

The 34-minute videotape was received several days ago by Al-Jazeera in Doha by "normal daily mail" from Pakistan. The network played an excerpt of the tape Wednesday.

Ibrahim Helal, chief editor of Al-Jazeera TV, said the network decided to air the statement in full Thursday "because the content of the tape actually proves for the first time that bin Laden is really behind it, the attacks."

On the full tape broadcast Thursday, bin Laden predicted his legacy would endure, regardless of whether he is alive to witness it. "I am just a poor slave of God. If I live or die, the war will continue."

CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen, author of a recently published book on bin Laden, said the significance of the latest videotape is the suggestion "bin Laden is willing to martyr himself" and his triumphant characterization of how the four hijackings "collapsed" the mighty U.S. economy.

Bin Laden attacked the first President Bush for leading an Arab-Western alliance in the Gulf War and said his son is no better. "Bush, the father, is a man who killed more than 1 million children in Iraq, not to mention other women and children," he said.

"If America is insisting on this policy, with George Bush Jr., who opened his term with a new raid on Iraq, he's just reiterating the same policy of his father."

Bin Laden said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resulted in "deliberate killing of children ... It's very ugly aggression, it's very ugly indeed. It's threatening the whole humankind."

Killing children is forbidden by Islam, bin Laden said, "but now, after all these years, the Israelis are using these crimes against our own people" and the United States is supporting the Israelis in their efforts.

Bin Laden also pointed out how the United States helped the men who allegedly carried out the attacks, saying the men trained at U.S. schools and used U.S. planes.

"I hope God will accept them in paradise," he said while praising the hijackers.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered little in the way of reaction to the latest bin Laden tape, saying he did not watch even the excerpts.

"I mean, here's a man who has killed thousands of innocent people, so using him as the oracle of all truth is -- clearly would be a mistake. He has lied repeatedly over and over again. He has hijacked a religion. He has hidden and cowered in caves and tunnels while sending people off to die."

Still, Rumsfeld said, the words of bin Laden will likely have an impact. "Many millions of people will believe them, despite the fact that they are so patently false."

The White House earlier dismissed the tape as "terrorist propaganda."




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