WORLD / Middle East

Laden: Moussaoui not linked to 9/11
Updated: 2006-05-24 06:21

CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden purportedly said in an audio tape Tuesday that Zacarias Moussaoui - the only person convicted in the US for the Sept. 11 attacks - had nothing to do with the operation.

Zacarias Moussaoui is shown in this undated police photograph. Osama bin Laden said Moussaoui, the only person convicted in a US court for the Sept. 11 attacks, had nothing to do with the operations, according to a Web site audiotape released on Tuesday. [Reuters]
"He had no connection at all with Sept. 11," the speaker, claiming to be bin Laden, said in the tape posted on the Internet.

"I am the one in charge of the 19 brothers and I never assigned brother Zacarias to be with them in that mission," he said, referring to the 19 hijackers.

The al-Qaida chief said the Sept. 11 hijackers were divided into two groups, "pilots and assistants."

"Since Zacarias Moussaoui was still learning how to fly, he wasn't No. 20 in the group, as your government has claimed," bin Laden said. "It knows this very well," he added.

Bin Laden said Moussaoui's confession - that he helped plan the attacks - was "void," calling it the result of "pressures exercised against him during four and a half years" in U.S. prison.

Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Frenchman and admitted al-Qaida member, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after a jury ruled that he was responsible for at least one death on Sept. 11.

Two counterterrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. intelligence is aware of the bin Laden message. One of the officials said there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.

Osama bin Laden sits during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir in an image supplied by the respected Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001.
Osama bin Laden sits during an interview with Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir in an image supplied by the respected Dawn newspaper November 10, 2001. Osama bin Laden purportedly said in an audio tape May 26, 2006 that Zacarias Moussaoui had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. [Reuters]
That official said the message is part of bin Laden's continuing effort to demonstrate he is a relevant extremist leader, who is knowledgeable of current events. The official said the message was made for propaganda purposes, and it does not contain any threats.

The audio message, which is less than five minutes long, was transmitted with a still photo of bin Laden.

If authentic, it would be the third by bin Laden this year. In a tape aired on Arab television in March, he denounced the United States and Europe for cutting off funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, accusing them of leading a "Zionist" war on Islam, and urged followers to fight any UN peacekeeping force in Sudan.

In January, bin Laden said in an audiotape that al-Qaida was preparing new attacks in the United States but offered a truce - though his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri later issued a video saying Washington had refused to take the offer.

The January message was bin Laden's first in over a year, his longest period of silence since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

His deputy al-Zawahri releases messages more frequently, appearing in videotapes, while bin Laden has not appeared in a video since October 2004.

Excerpts of comments purportedly by terror leader bin Laden in new audio tape
apeng 2006-05-24 10:51

Excerpts of comments purportedly by Osama bin Laden

"I begin by talking about the honorable brother Zacarias Moussaoui. The truth is that he has no connection whatsoever with the events of September 11th..."

"His confession that he was assigned to participate in those raids is a false confession which no intelligent person doubts is a result of the pressure put upon him for the past four and a half years."

"Among the things that confirm this fact is that the participants in September 11th were two groups: pilots and support teams for each pilot in order to control the aircraft. And since Zacarias Moussaoui was learning how to fly, it follows that he wasn't component #20 from the teams which helped to control the airplanes, as your government previously claimed, and your government knows this fact with certainty."

"And then I call to memory my brothers the prisoners in Guantanamo - may Allah free them all - and I state the fact, about which I also am certain, that all the prisoners of Guantanamo, who were captured in 2001 and the first half of 2002 and who number in the hundreds, have no connection whatsoever to the events of September 11th..."

"Among these reasons is that it is necessary to create justifications for the massive spending of hundreds of billions on the Defense Department and other agencies in their war against the Mujahideen."

"My mentioning of these facts isn't out of hope that Bush and his party will treat our brothers fairly in their cases, because that is something no rational person expects, but rather it is meant to expose the oppression, injustice and arbitrariness of your administration in using force and the reactions that result from that."