Bin Laden : I have chemical and nuclear weapons

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The Independent Online

Osama bin Laden today claimed today in an interview that he had chemical and nuclear weapons and was prepared to use them as a deterrent.

In his first newspaper interview since the 11 September attacks, bin Laden said his al-Qa'ida network would be prepared to use the weapons if the coalition mounted a nuclear attack against them.

Western security sources claimed last month that bin Laden may have materials to make nuclear weapons, but said it was unlikely he had the technology to develop them.

Bin Laden's boasts were made during an interview with English language Pakistani newspaper Dawn, at a secret location near Kabul. During the interview he said: "I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent."

Flanked by bodyguards, he claimed that the 11 September attacks on the US were justified as America was killing Muslims all over the world: "In my view, if an enemy occupies a Muslim territory and uses common people as human shield, then it is permitted to attack that enemy.

"For instance, if bandits barge into a home and hold a child hostage, then the child's father can attack the bandits and in that attack even the child may get hurt.

"America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq. The Muslims have the right to attack America in reprisal.

"The Islamic Shariat says Muslims should not live in the land of the infidel for long.

In remarks which came close to admitting responsibility for the attacks, bin Laden said: "The September 11 attacks were not targeted at women and children. The real targets were America's icons of military and economic power."

Bin Laden continued: "The American people should remember that they pay taxes to their government, they elect their president, their government manufactures arms and gives them to Israel and Israel uses them to massacre Palestinians. "The American Congress endorses all government measures and this proves that the entire America is responsible for the atrocities perpetrated against Muslims.

"I ask the American people to force their government to give up anti-Muslim policies. The American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. They must do the same today.

"We are carrying on the mission of our Prophet, Muhammad. The mission is to spread the word of God, not to indulge massacring people.

"We ourselves are the target of killings, destruction and atrocities. We are only defending ourselves. This is defensive Jihad. We want to defend our people and our land.

"That is why I say that if we don't get security, the Americans, too would not get security.

"This is a simple formula that even an American child can understand. This is the formula of live and let live."

Bin Laden said the Pakistan government should have considered the views of its people before siding with the US: "The government of Pakistan should have the wishes of the people in view. It should not have surrendered to the unjustified demands of America.

"America does not have solid proof against us. It just has some surmises. It is unjust to start bombing on the basis of those surmises."

He continued: "Right now a great war of Islamic history is being fought in Afghanistan. All the big powers are united against Muslims. It is 'sawab' to participate in this war."

The newspaper's editor, Hamid Mir, was smuggled to a secret location for his 8 November meeting with bin Laden rolled in a blanket.

Mr Mir told BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the encounter with bin Laden: "He said that if America was going to use nuclear or chemical weapons against us, then we also have that deterrent and we will respond back.

"He said we will not use these weapons first. I asked him from where he got these kind of weapons. He said I will not answer your question.

"I think that he has some links in some central Asian republics with some people who have these kind of weapons.

"I think he may have some chemical weapons, I can't say about his claim about nuclear weapons."

Mr Mir said it was clear that the military campaign against Afghanistan was hurting al-Qa'ida.

"He said that day by day the pressure is increasing on us, they are dropping more bombs, they are putting more troops on Mazar-i-Sharif. He said maybe this place in which you are interviewing me, maybe this place is bombed and we may be killed but we will not surrender and we will continue our fight.

"They are suffering a lot of casualties. I think their losses are higher than reported in the international media."

There were clearly close links between al Qaida and the Taliban, said Mr Mir. "The Taliban authorities exchange all kind of information with Osama bin Laden."