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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Bin Laden makes media offer
Osama Bin Laden on Al-Jazeera
Bin Laden's messages have troubled Washington
The prime suspect in the US terror attacks, Osama Bin Laden, has reportedly offered to answer a series of questions fielded by Western and Middle Eastern journalists.

A spokesman claiming to represent Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network made the offer to the US television station CNN and Qatar-based Arabic network al-Jazeera.


How can you and your followers advocate the killing of innocent people?

Question submitted
The man asked for written questions, saying these would be answered on video and then delivered back to al-Jazeera, which has already carried several statements from Bin Laden and his network.

CNN says it has sent six questions to al-Jazeera relating to Bin Laden's alleged role in the September 11 attacks and his justifications for killing thousands of innocent civilians.

News test

But the US network was quick to stress that it would only broadcast the comments if they were newsworthy and of relevance to its audience.

Two letters containing anthrax sent to Senator Tom Daschle and NBC's anchorman
Questions have been submitted on the anthrax attacks
The US and British governments last week made clear their discomfort at broadcasts of Bin Laden messages at a time when they are trying to win global support for their battle against terrorism.

Both the White House and Downing Street suggested the messages could contain alerts to terrorists, a suggestion that has been denounced by some as an ill-disguised attempt at censorship.

Last week, the five major US networks - including CNN - agreed to limit their coverage of statements by Bin Laden and his associates.

But al-Jazeera, which has been providing much of the world with live footage from inside Taleban-controlled Afghanistan, as well as Bin Laden messages, has vigorously defended its coverage.

"Osama Bin Laden, like it or not, is a party to this present crisis," said the channel's news editor, Ahmed Sheikh, in a recent BBC interview.

"If we said that we were not going to allow him the air time, then we would have lost our integrity and objectivity and our coverage of the story would have become unbalanced."

These are the questions put forward:

  • Your spokesman has praised the September 11 attacks that killed thousands of innocent people and threatened to carry out more attacks involving planes and tall buildings. How can you and your followers advocate the killing of innocent people?

  • What was your role and the role of the al-Qaeda organisation in the September 11 attacks?

  • What was your role and the role of your organisation in the subsequent anthrax attacks in the United States?

  • Did any of the September 11 hijackers or their accomplices receive al-Qaeda financial support or training at al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and was any other government or organisation involved?

  • In the past you have called on your followers to acquire weapons of mass destruction - nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Do you or any of your followers have any such weapons and, if so, will those weapons be used?

  • The vast majority of Muslim and Arab leaders, including Muslim clerics and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, say there is no justification in Islam for the terrorist attacks you advocate. They have denounced you, your followers, and your self-declared holy war. How do you respond to their criticism?

See also:

15 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Broadcasters hear Bin Laden video fears
11 Oct 01 | Americas
US TV limits Bin Laden coverage
07 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's warning: full text
10 Oct 01 | Middle East
TV station defends Bin Laden coverage
04 Oct 01 | Americas
US urges curb on Arab TV channel
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