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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 00:30 GMT
Hit US economy, urges Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden - image taken from al-Jazeera TV
Al-Jazeera says the video was sent from Pakistan
Osama Bin Laden's latest video message urged supporters to "hit the pillars of the US economy" as the Afghan defence ministry said he had escaped to Pakistan.

The 33-minute video - apparently pre-recorded some weeks ago - has been broadcast in full by the Qatar-based satellite television station al-Jazeera, which first aired excerpts on Wednesday.

If their economy is finished they will become too busy to enslave oppressed people

Osama Bin Laden
In it, Bin Laden - appearing gaunt, tired and thin, but sometimes smiling - says the destruction of the United States is imminent - whether he lives or dies.

Revelling in the "ease" of the 11 September attacks against the United States blamed on his al-Qaeda network, Bin Laden says that if the "fragile" American economy collapses, the superpower will be unable to oppress the weak.

Pronouncing the attacks which killed an estimated 3,000 people "blessed", he congratulates the 19 suicide hijackers for shaking the throne of America.

No new leads

The tape offers no clue about Bin Laden's whereabouts - but Afghan defence ministry spokesman Mohammed Habeel said he was hiding in Pakistan. The claim has not been independently verified.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Rumsfeld says the US is in the dark about Bin Laden's whereabouts
Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, however, reacting to the statement, was quoted as saying that Bin Laden's whereabouts remained a mystery.

The prime minister and the defence minister have taken conflicting positions before - notably on the deployment of foreign troops in Afghanistan which the defence ministry initially opposed.

There has been persistent speculation that Bin Laden might have taken refuge in Pakistan, which the Pakistani government has been quick to quash.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted on Thursday that Washington had no new information on Bin Laden's whereabouts - or even whether he is alive or dead.

He has lied repeatedly, over and over again. He has hijacked a religion. He has hidden and cowered in caves and tunnels while sending people off to die.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

But Mr Habeel claimed that Bin Laden was being sheltered by a radical Islamic group in Pakistan led by Maulana Fazalur Rehman.

Mr Rehman, however, who is under house arrest, dismissed the suggestion as a "joke".

A reference to a US attack in November could indicate that the video broadcast on Thursday was recorded several weeks ago.

The world's most wanted man ends his message with a poem dedicated to the hijackers, apparently written by him.

Wearing a combat jacket with a Kalashnikov assault rifle propped beside him, he appears as a solitary figure rather than being surrounded by supporters as in previous videos.

Renewed call for 'jihad'

He says the 11 September suicide attacks were intended to stop US support for Israel - and as a reaction to injustice against "our sons in Palestine, Iraq, Somalia and southern Sudan, as well as in Kashmir."

Pakistani troops looking for Bin Laden along the Afghan border
The search for Bin Laden continues
"We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether Bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim umma (nation) has occurred," Bin Laden says.

Noting with satisfaction the "haemorrhaging" of the US economy since 11 September, he urges his supporters to continue the "holy war" militarily and economically.

The United States and Britain dismissed the video as further propaganda.

The Saudi ambassador to the United States said it "contains the usual rhetoric we have seen before from a deviant and cowardly criminal."

It is the first Bin Laden message broadcast by al-Jazeera since 3 November.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Osama Bin Laden praises the hi-jackers"
Al-Jazeera Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Helal
"He's nearly admitting that he did it"
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
"If you walked in and said, 'Here is Mr Bin Laden', the problem would not go away"
See also:

27 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's video poser
27 Dec 01 | Middle East
Transcript: Bin Laden video excerpts
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's disappearing act
17 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's hiding places
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
27 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kandahar 'no go' for aid convoys
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