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Apparent al Qaeda video shows Afghan attack

Story Highlights

• Web site shows fighters carefully studying raid on checkpoint
• Area described is in Taliban territory in southern Afghanistan
• Date and true location of attack unclear
• Authenticity cannot be independently confirmed
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(CNN) -- An al Qaeda video posted on Islamist Web sites Friday shows armed fighters meticulously planning and executing an operation against what they say are U.S. and Afghan forces at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan.

The 24-minute video, which bears the stamp of as-Sahab, al Qaeda's production company, features a short introduction from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, in which he appears to make reference to President Bush's State of the Union speech from January.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the propaganda video, which has English subtitles. CNN located the video Thursday, when Bush gave a speech on Afghanistan.

"Bush raved in his latest speech, and among his ravings was that he has deprived al Qaeda of a safe haven in Afghanistan," al-Zawahiri said in the introduction. "The entire world bears witness to his barefaced lie, because al Qaeda and the Taliban ... are the ones who have deprived America of safe haven in Afghanistan."

The al-Zawahiri statement, however, does not appear to be new.

The video shows fighters conducting detailed reconnaissance before the operation at what they say is the Arghandab checkpoint in the Zabul province of southern Afghanistan. The checkpoint, one fighter tells others, is of "strategic importance" because of its location; however, few signs of activity are visible at the alleged checkpoint.

CNN terror analyst Peter Bergen said the video appears to be shot in Zabul, deep in Taliban territory.

"It's quite unusual that al Qaeda would be operating so deep inside Afghanistan, which makes it interesting," he said.

It was unclear exactly when the attack, if it was at Arghandab, took place. A report from Pajhwok Afghan News, posted on the news site, says that Taliban fighters captured Arghandab district in southern Zabul on September 6, 2006.

A Taliban spokesman said the militia captured Arghanbad "very easily without any resistance or fighting overnight," according to the report.

Targeted facility may have been NATO post

Zabul province was handed over to NATO in the summer of 2006, when U.S. troops transferred from the south of Afghanistan to the east, Bergen said, so it's possible the alleged attack was against a NATO post.

But NATO, which operates the United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, released little on the alleged incident.

"We have had no reporting through intelligence or other channels that supports a report of 150 enemy in Zabul," an ISAF spokesperson told CNN, referring to the number of militia members the al Qaeda video claims took part in the operation.

The video is significant, said CNN Senior Arab Affairs Editor Octavia Nasr, because it is largely in Arabic -- the language of al Qaeda -- with only comments from local villagers in other languages.

The video shows the layout of the checkpoint and the barracks for U.S. and Afghan troops, fences surrounding the area and other features.

After the reconnaissance, a militia leader points to hills, buildings and other locations using a model created on the ground, surrounded by a border of rocks. Hills are accurately represented by mounds, and the fighters' posts are marked.

The leader details the battle plans for their coming attack, which he says will involve "150 brothers."

The video purports to show the "operation" itself, with the sights and sounds of rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

After the "operation" is complete, militia members enter the area, calling it a "cleansed military base."

"These are their filthy barracks," one man says, and the militia members look at the graffiti on the walls. One soldier's name is written there, along with "Utah."

Another claims that proof is found in the barracks that financiers of the Afghan war are "puppet regimes of the Gulf." Saudi Arabia is mentioned; the militia holds up a potato-chip bag that says it was made in Saudi Arabia.

Fighters praise the help they received from the townspeople in launching the operation, saying the locals helped show them the best routes and even carried their weapons.

Those townspeople, too, are featured, along with their complaints about the American forces. Then, the militia and locals celebrate the town's "liberation."

"The people are very happy and proud of the mujahedeen's success," one man tells the camera. "They are praying for them."

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Al Qaeda fighters deep in Afghanistan are seen in a video posted Friday on an Islamist Web site.



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