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Middle East

Bin Laden's posthumous message seeks to hijack Arab Spring


Osama bin Laden spent the final weeks and months of his life attempting to extract maximum political leverage for al-Qa'ida from the Arab Spring uprisings.

In an audio message recorded before his assassination last month, he praised some – but not all – of the recent revolutions in the Middle East and warned fellow Islamists to be wary of Western involvement in the region.

The 12-minute tape was released to a selection of radical websites by al-Qa'ida's media wing, As-Sahab, on Wednesday, in an apparent effort to overshadow Barack Obama's scheduled speech on the Middle East. It described Bin Laden as "the martyr of Islam".

"The light of the revolution sparked in Tunisia, and the nation felt the relief, the faces of the people got brightened, and the throats of the rulers got coarser, and the Jews got terrified because the coming of the promised day," reads a translation of a typical passage.

Though Bin Laden voiced support for uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, he was notably silent about those in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. The latter oversight perhaps indicates that – although he strongly disapproved of Gaddafi – he was reluctant to ally himself with the international coalition seeking to help topple him.

His comments will inevitably fuel concerns that radical elements are attempting to capitalise on the region's recent turmoil. The authenticity of the tape, thought to be recorded some time in April, has meanwhile not been verified. But the US has recently warned that a final message from Bin Laden was likely to emerge posthumously.