Official: Doubt on al-Zawahiri claim
From Pam Benson
Ayman al-Zawahiri in a videotape released Monday
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. counterterrorism official says the newly released tape of Osama bin Laden's chief deputy does not in itself demonstrate that al Qaeda planned or directed the terrorist attacks in London last July.
In the tape broadcast Monday on the Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed responsibility for the July bombings on mass transit in downtown London.
The first attack on July 7 killed 56 people, including the four bombers. Two weeks later, four bombs failed to detonate.
The U.S. official said this is not the first time al Qaeda has hinted at responsibility for the attacks.
Al-Zawahiri appeared on a previous tape in which he blamed the policies of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush for the bombings.
But the counterterrorism official said al Qaeda seemed "content to take credit for any terrorist attacks."
The official pointed to what he called the "stepped up propaganda efforts" by al Qaeda, attempts, he said, to get "better play" in Western media.
For instance, al-Zawahiri's tape contained English subtitles. And earlier this month, officials believe American-born Adam Gadahn appeared on a videotape, praising the attacks on London and Madrid, Spain, and threatening future ones in Los Angeles, California, and Melbourne, Australia.
The counterterrorism official believes al Qaeda was using Gadahn for propaganda purposes because his American citizenship and perfect English would "resonate more" in the West.
The FBI is seeking information on Gadahn's whereabouts. He is listed as "armed and dangerous" on the FBI web site.
Intelligence officials would not comment on the authenticity of the latest al-Zawahiri tape, other than to say, "We've never had a fake one." (Full story)
Although there have been a number of al-Zawahiri videotapes this year, bin Laden has not been seen on a tape since last October.
Officials believe bin Laden is alive and have seen nothing to substantiate recent reports about the al Qaeda leader's ill health.
One official said security concerns were most likely keeping bin Laden in the shadows.
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