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U.S. looks for 'signals' in bin Laden tape

Bin Laden in a 1998 photograph.
Bin Laden in a 1998 photograph.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. intelligence analysts are looking for possible signals in the audiotaped warning said to have been issued by Osama bin Laden, even as experts work to determine whether the al Qaeda leader was the speaker, Attorney General John Ashcroft said Wednesday.

"I am confident ... that very serious effort is being given not only to the tape itself and whether or not it might represent the voice of bin Laden, but also to the content of the tape and what might be signaled in the wording of the tape," Ashcroft said at a Justice Department news conference with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"The fact of the tape out there does, and should, put us greater alert," Mueller said.

The statement, broadcast Tuesday by the Qatar-based satellite network Al-Jazeera, praises recent terror attacks against governments that have aligned themselves with Washington and threatens U.S. allies with more bloodshed if they support an American-led war against Iraq.

Ahmed Mwaffac Zeidan, Al-Jazeera's Islamabad bureau chief, said in his column Wednesday in Al-Hayat, a London-based Arabic language newspaper, that he obtained the tape in Pakistan.

President Bush told congressional leaders the voice on the tape appeared to be that of the al Qaeda leader and referred to the message as "timely."

Bush said later at a Cabinet meeting that no matter who released the tape, it puts the United States on notice that "there is an active enemy" that continues to pursue its goals through hate and killing.

"Whoever put this tape out has put the world on notice yet again that we're at war, and we need to take this message very seriously, and we will," he said.

Bush added that the U.S. government and its 90 international allies continue to pursue terrorists: "We'll chase these people down one at a time. It doesn't matter how long it takes, we'll find them and bring them to justice."

Linguists 'almost certain' voice is bin Laden's

Linguists at the U.S. National Security Agency who know bin Laden's voice well said they are "almost certain" it is him on the tape, although the timbre of his speech is "somewhat different" from what it is on previous tapes, sources said. (More on tape analysis)

Other U.S. officials said they believe the tape was sent over a telephone line at some point during its journey from where it was recorded to the offices of Al-Jazeera.

Coalition intelligence sources said there is no indication the tape had been edited and that they think the tape dates from the last two and a half weeks.

The message calls Bush the "pharaoh of the century" and vows to avenge the deaths of Afghans, Iraqis and Palestinians.

"Why it is acceptable for [Muslims] to live with fear, murder, destruction, displacement, the orphaning of children and the widowing of women, but peace, security and happiness should be for you? This is not fair," the voice on the tape says.

"Now is the time to become equals. Just like you kill us, we will kill you."

The speaker refers to the killings of Germans in Tunisia and French in Pakistan in the past year, to the bombing of a French tanker off Yemen, to the killings of a U.S. Marine in Kuwait and Britons and Australians in the Indonesian resort isle of Bali last month, and to the seizure of a Moscow theater by Chechen rebels.

The tape's message came as security services and police in Europe are on high alert. Coalition intelligence agencies have warned that the threat of a new and massive attack is higher now than at any time since the September 11, 2001, attacks against the United States.

CIA Director George Tenet said in October that al Qaeda had reorganized since U.S. attacks in Afghanistan last year and "you must make the assumption that al Qaeda is in an execution phase and intends to strike us here and overseas."

CNN correspondents Mike Boettcher, Andrea Koppel, David Ensor and Octavia Nasr contributed to this story.

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