Bin Laden admits role in terrorism

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The Independent Online
OSAMA BIN LADEN, the alleged terrorist blamed by Washington for the bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam last summer, has said in a rare interview that neither of the two men being held for the attacks was involved in the bombings and accused the CIA of using the arrests to cover up its intelligence failures.

But he failed to deny his involvement in terrorism, insisting that acquiring weapons of any variety, including chemical and nuclear weapons was a Muslim "religious duty".

"If the instigation for jihad [holy war] against the Jews and the Americans... is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal," he said. "Our job is to instigate," he said, "and, by the grace of God, we did that, and certain people responded to this instigation."

Mr bin Laden, who is second only to the Iraqi leader, President Saddam Hussein, on the list of American bogeymen, was interviewed for Time magazine by a Pakistani journalist, Rahimullah Yusufazi.

To conduct the interview, reported in today's issue of the magazine, Mr Yusufazi says he was approached out of the blue by associates of Mr bin Laden on 22 December and taken by car to a encampment in the Afghan desert near the Pakistan border.

Asked about the two men now in US custody in connection with the Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings, Wadih el-Hage and Mohamad Rashed al-Owhali, Mr bin Laden said he was confident they would be exonerated. He admitted Wadih el-Hage had been associated with him at one time, as "one of our brothers whom God was kind enough to steer to the path of relief work for Afghan refugees", but said: "He has nothing to do with the US allegations." Of al-Owhali, he denied any direct knowledge.

He said: "The fact of the matter is that America, and in particular the CIA, wanted to cover up its failure in the aftermath of the events that took place in Riyadh, Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Capetown, Kampala - and other places, God willing, in the future - by arresting any person who had participated in the Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan."

Asked about reports that he had attempted to obtain chemical and even nuclear weapons, Mr bin Laden seemed to be trying to keep Washington guessing. "Acquiring weapons for the defence of Muslims is a religious duty," he said. "If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so... It would be a sin for Muslims not to try to possess the weapons that would prevent the infidels from inflicting harm on Muslims."

The interview appears to be an attempt by Mr bin Laden to promote his message and simultaneously to taunt the US for its failure to find him.

Mr bin Laden has been in hiding since the embassy bombings and has frustrated all American attempts to track him down.

In August he escaped a retaliatory US bomb attack on a camp in southern Afghanistan believed to be his headquarters. Washington subsequently denied involvement in attempts to kill him. The magazine said Mr bin Laden used a walking stick because of a bad back and was nursing a sore throat but said he denied his health was poor.

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