WASHINGTON - A new audiotape attributed to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden praises the attack on a U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia this month and encourages holy warriors to mount attacks aimed at preventing the United States from obtaining Middle Eastern oil.
Within hours after the recording was posted on an Islamic Web site, the CIA concluded that there is "a high degree of confidence" that the speaker is bin Laden, a U.S. intelligence official said yesterday. Unlike other recent messages from bin Laden that were largely directed at an American audience, the latest recording, dated Wednesday, appears aimed primarily at Muslims in the Middle East. It urges them to fight the United States and its regional allies.
In one segment, the speaker exhorts Muslims to support the insurgency in Iraq, saying that "targeting America in Iraq in terms of economy and losses in life is a golden and unique opportunity. Do not waste it to regret it later."
In another passage, the man identified as bin Laden discusses the price of oil, accusing the United States of seeking to control the region's vast supplies and keeping petroleum prices depressed.
"Exert all that you can to stop the largest stealing operation that takes place in history," he says, according to a U.S. government translation of the tape. "Be active and prevent them from reaching the oil, and mount your operations accordingly, particularly in Iraq and the Gulf, for this is their fate."
The tape is the latest in a flurry of statements believed to be from bin Laden and his top lieutenant that suggest they are mounting a more concerted public relations campaign after disappearing from the airwaves for long stretches after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
In October, bin Laden appeared on videotape discussing the presidential race days before the vote, warning U.S. citizens that their security depended on their actions toward Muslims.
The new tape is an often rambling, 74-minute address containing a mix of strident rhetoric and Quranic verses.
The speaker asks for "mercy on the mujahedeen who stormed the consulate of the Americans in Jiddah," a reference to a Dec. 6 attack on the U.S. facility that ended with the deaths of five non-American staffers. Four of the militants were killed, and a fifth was wounded and arrested by Saudi authorities. Al-Qaida was blamed for the attack.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.