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Last Updated: Monday, 1 November, 2004, 15:08 GMT
Bin Laden's October surprise

By Paul Reynolds
World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

Osama Bin Laden in the new video
Bin Laden's video message comes four days before the US election
Osama Bin Laden sprung the October surprise many had expected, not in the form of a bomb but as a political bombshell.

Clearly, his video message was designed for maximum impact on the US presidential election, although analysts appear divided as to what impact it will have.

At the same time, it contained a warning, an explanation and an offer.

And, at least in the edited version released by the Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera, it avoided religious rhetoric.

Bin Laden was talking to Americans in a language he thinks they will understand.

Warning

"Oh American people, my talk to you is about the best way to avoid another Manhattan, about the war, its causes, and results," he said at the start of the message.

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Thus another 9/11 on the United States is threatened - although one might ask why it has not been achieved, so far at least, if such an attack is still in his mind.

By mentioning Sweden as a country not under threat, he implicitly threatened others that do support US policies.

Explanation

There was much familiar al-Qaeda material here about injustice, the US-Israeli alliance and the fate of the Palestinians.

He interestingly revealed that it was during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 that he first thought of toppling the towers of America.

Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands
Osama Bin Laden

"While I was looking at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust one in a similar manner by destroying towers in the United States," he said.

This preceded his alliance with the Americans against the Russians in Afghanistan.

His thinking is therefore very long term.

Osama bin Laden did not put forward a detailed political programme - but he did outline his strategy.

He is a not an irrational fanatic.

That strategy is two fold. It is firstly to get the US and its allies to withdraw from the Muslim world (and stop supporting Israel of course) and secondly to remove the Arab rulers he opposes.

His language for these rulers is dismissive and he lumps President Bush in with them as the son of a former President.

"We did not find it difficult to deal with Bush and his administration because it is similar to regimes in our countries, half of which are governed by the military and the other half of which are governed by the sons of kings and presidents," he said.

"In both categories, you find many who are characterised by hubris, arrogance, greed, and unlawful acquisition of money."

And along the way he scorns Mr Bush's decision to remain in the school classroom for seven minutes after being told that the World Trade Center had been attacked. He knows how to needle his enemy on a personal level.

Offer

"Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Each and every state that does not tamper with our security will have automatically assured its own security," he said.

He appears from this passage to realise that John Kerry is not in fact offering much change in policy in the war on terror declared by President Bush.

THE BIN LADEN TAPES
29 Oct: Al-Jazeera airs video of Bin Laden admitting he carried out 11 September attacks
15 April: Bin Laden audio tape gives Europe three months to pull troops out of Islamic nations
4 Jan: Al-Jazeera airs audio tape calling on Muslims to keep fighting holy war in Middle East
10 Sept 03: Video footage shows Bin Laden walking through rocky terrain with al-Zawahri, two taped messages accompany video
So the appeal is to the American people.

There has since been discussion of what he meant by the word "state." Some suggest that he meant individual US states, meaning for example that if New York state voted against Bush, as it will do, it would be safe from another 9/11 type-attack.

Others say that this analysis would be inconsistent with bin Laden's assertion that there is no difference between Bush and Kerry and that he must be referring to countries as he has in the past.

He has previously offered a truce with European countries.

Incidentally this is not the first time he has taken responsibility for 9/11.

On a videotape found after the war in Afghanistan he is seen talking to his associates and remarking that he, an engineer it must not be forgotten, thought that only the top halves of the twin towers would fall.

In that tape, although not made for public consumption, he revealed himself to be a thoughtful operator as well as a dedicated fighter.

Just as he did in this latest tape.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
New video shows change in Bin Laden's delivery



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Reuters RPT-Wall St Wk Ahead:Bin Laden, election to move stocks - 5 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Bin Laden Tape Included No Specific Threat - 6 hrs ago
SABC Bin Laden accuses Bush of deceiving Americans - 21 hrs ago
CNN Bush reacts to bin Laden tape - 28 hrs ago
Los Angeles TimesAl Qaeda Leader Reveals Sept. 11 Motive - 29 hrs ago
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