January 4, 1999
(CNN) -- Exiled Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden said in an interview with ABC News that last August's bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa may have come about because of his calls for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States and Israel.
But the alleged terrorist mastermind denied in another interview, to be published in Newsweek January 11, that he ordered the bombings or was personally involved in their planning.
"I heard about the bombings the same way everyone else heard about them, from the television or radio," bin Laden said in the Newsweek interview, conducted by Palestinian journalist Jamal Ismail on December 22 at a secret base in Afghanistan. "I did not order them but was very glad for what happened to the Americans there."
U.S. officials have indicted bin Laden on charges of masterminding the attacks.
While not directly referring to the charges against him, Bin Laden contends that Muslims are merely responding to a legitimate duty to protect their religion against perceived attacks from "Jews and crusaders (generally Americans)."
"We have repeatedly issued warnings, over a number of years," bin Laden told ABC producer Rahimullah Yousafsai a day after the Newsweek interview. "Following these warnings and these calls, anti-American explosions took place in a number of Islamic countries."
"Most probably, these acts came about as a result of such calls and warnings," he continued. "But only God knows the truth."
Bin Laden also said that he understands "the motives of those who carried out these acts."
"We are confident in the abilities of this Nation of Muhammad," he said. "We pray to God, Praise and Glory be to him, to help Muslims expel the Americans and Jews from Islamic countries."
Bin Laden did not deny American charges that he had tried to purchase chemical weapons and the material for nuclear weapons, instead saying it wasn't a crime to acquire such weapons.
"Our holy land is occupied by Israeli and American forces," he said in the Newsweek interview. "We have the right to defend ourselves and to liberate our holy land."
In the ABC interview, bin Laden called it a "religious duty" to obtain such weapons.
"If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then this is an obligation I carried out and I thank God for enabling us to do that," he said.
A U.S. missile attack on his Afghanistan bases -- in retaliation for the embassy bombings -- did "minor damage," bin Laden said. And he said that reports that he is ill are an American lie.
"I'm healthier now than at any time before," he said in Newsweek.
Newsweek reported that bin Laden walked with the aid of stick, reportedly because of a bad back, and that he was nursing a sore throat.
Bin Laden said that he was "not afraid to die" for the cause of Islam.
"Hostility towards America is a religious duty and we hope to be rewarded for it by God," he said in the ABC interview. "Praise be to God for guiding us to do jihad in his cause."
Bin Laden also said that "God Willing," the Islamic nation will "end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America."
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