New bin Laden tape 'made two weeks ago'

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The Independent Online

Osama bin Laden appeared to take credit for the 11 September terrorist attacks in a video broadcast last night, while it was revealed that a British man who tried to blow up an airliner on Saturday may have attended al-Qa'ida training camps.

The video, broadcast on the al-Jazeera satellite television channel based in Qatar, showed Mr bin Laden alive possibly as recently as two weeks ago. It increases the likelihood that he may have escaped the US bombardment of Tora Bora.

Looking gaunt but unharmed, Mr bin Laden said: "Our terrorism against the United States is worthy of praise to deter the oppressor so that America stop its support for Israel, which is killing our children." He described the attacks as a form of "benevolent terrorism".

This appears to be the first public confirmation by Mr bin Laden that his al-Qa'ida organisation was responsible for the attacks on America. An earlier conversation in which he appeared to admit involvement in the attacks received a sceptical response in much of the Islamic world because it had been released by the US.

Mr bin Laden said the video marked about three months since the attacks on New York and Washington, indicating that it had been filmed in early to mid December. He added: "It is very clear that the West in general, spearheaded by America, holds an undescribable amount of Crusader loathing for Islam, and that those who have lived all these months under the constant bombing ... know this for a fact."

The White House dismissed the video as "terrorist propaganda". American security sources have revealed that Richard Reid, the British man who allegedly tried to blow up an airliner with explosives hidden in his shoes, had been recognised by some captured members of Osama bin Laden's organisation. A US official told NBC that some of the prisoners interrogated by the CIA said they remembered him at training camps in Afghanistan.

The unsubstantiated claims would mean that the attempted bombing of the American Airlines flight was the first attack attributed to al-Qa'ida since 11 September. But the information about Mr Reid was ambiguous and some of those who said they remembered him could not be sure he attended the camps.

Mr Reid, 28, remained under suicide watch in a Boston jail. The plane he boarded in Paris bound for Miami was diverted to Massachusetts after he allegedly tried to light explosives in his shoes.

The chairman of the Brixton Mosque in London, attended by Mr Reid, said there were hundreds more potential suicide bombers in Britain. Abdul Haqq Baker condemned extremism, but warned of "worse to come" as hardliners recruited among disaffected youths.

Mr Reid joined the moderate Brixton Mosque after converting to Islam in jail, but became drawn to more radical elements. Mr Baker, 35, said that extremists found fertile ground among young Muslims who rejected the established Islamic leaders' message of tolerance. He said: "Those propagating extreme views are relatively few, but in the last four or five years we have witnessed that number grow quite frighteningly."

Mr Reid worshipped at Brixton Mosque at the same time as Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged in America with conspiracy over the 11 September attacks. Mr Baker believes Mr Reid may have had contacts with radical London mosques.