WASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden was shown on television yesterday afternoon declaring that "America is full of fear" and would never be safe and secure until Palestinians feel safe and secure.
"America was hit by God in one of its softest spots. America is full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that," bin Laden said in a videotape shown on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language satellite station.
Bin Laden did not claim credit for the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. But he made it clear that he exulted in the suffering of the United States: "I swear to God that America will never dream of security or see it before we live it and see it in Palestine, and not before the infidels' armies leave the land of Muhammad, peace be upon him."
The taped comments appeared to have been made during daytime, which would mean that the video was recorded before the attack. Al-Jazeera said the statement was videotaped after the attacks of Sept. 11 but did not give a specific date. The tape was delivered by hand to the network's office in Kabul, said Omar Bec, Al-Jazeera's director for news-gathering operations in Doha, Qatar.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he did not think President Bush had seen the tape as of midafternoon.
"The Taliban and Osama bin Laden have said all kinds of things that are often at odds with reality," Fleischer said. "What he says is not as important as what he's done."
Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar survived the initial wave of yesterday's attack on targets in Afghanistan, said an official from Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia. But there was no way to verify the statement.
Bin Laden's war on America has been fueled in part by anger over U.S. support for Israel and the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest shrines, including the tomb of the prophet Muhammad.
Throughout his address, bin Laden sought to cast the conflict as one between Islam and the rest of the world. Those who sided against him, such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, he suggested, had turned against Islam. In a political context, that concept carries great weight among Islamic militants, justifying armed opposition to regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that they consider infidel.
"It was very effective," said Jamal Khashoggi, deputy editor of the Arab News in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. "He pinpointed the matters that are in the hearts of all Muslims, whether they are in Indonesia or Morocco. I'm sure he has motivated a lot of people tonight."
"An eye for an eye is an eye for an eye," said Ghada Hassan, a worker at a medical laboratory walking with friends in downtown Cairo, Egypt. "If America is against terrorism, it should defend the Palestinians."
On the other hand, Mohammad Sayed Said, a political scientist in Cairo, said, people might think "this is a confession of sorts and see it with revulsion."
Muslims in the United States denounced bin Laden's religious rhetoric.
Aly R. Abuzaakouk, executive director of the Washington-based American Muslim Council, said he resented bin Laden's attempts to speak for all of Islam.
"I don't think Mr. bin Laden is the authority regarding what Islam stands for," said Abuzaakouk, whose group is the largest Muslim-American political organization.
Bin Laden was shown in fatigues and an Afghan headdress, sitting in a cave flanked by two aides. It is the first time he has spoken about the attacks, though he has denied responsibility through intermediaries.
Bin Laden, who has long been rumored to suffer from kidney disease, looked much thinner than he did in the last accurately dated tape of him, taken in January during his son's wedding.
The video opened with an aide, the spokesman for bin Laden's al-Qaida group, reading a statement.
"What happened in the United States is a natural reaction to the ignorant policy of the United States," said the aide, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith.
"If it continues with this policy, the sons of Islam will not stop their struggle. The American people have to know that what is happening to them now is the result of their support of this policy," the statement said. "The war against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden is a war on Islam."
Ayman al-Zawahri, a top figure in al-Qaida and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, also appeared in the videotape and urged Muslims to resist America. Al-Zawahri, once tried in Egypt and jailed for three years for his part in the assassination of President Anwar el Sadat in 1981, has been linked to some of the suspects in the attacks.
"People of America, your government is leading you into a losing battle," al-Zawahri said. "Remember that your government was defeated in Vietnam, fled in panic from Lebanon, rushed out of Somalia and was slapped across the face in Aden. Your government today is leading you into a losing war, where you will lose your sons and your money."
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