Tape attributed to bin Laden posted on Web

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The Independent Online

A recording purported to be the voice of Osama bin Laden has been posted on an Islamic Web site. It praises the men who attacked a US consulate in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and scoffed at the Saudi regime's reform efforts.

A recording purported to be the voice of Osama bin Laden has been posted on an Islamic Web site. It praises the men who attacked a US consulate in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and scoffed at the Saudi regime's reform efforts.

The voice sounded like the al-Qa'ida terror chief's, and the tape, which was more than an hour, was posted on a site known as a clearinghouse for militant Islamic comment. The identity of the speaker, however, could not be confirmed.

The US intelligence community will be conducting a technical analysis of the tape, said a US official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The tape appeared the same day another dissident had called for anti-monarchy protests in Saudi Arabia.

Its reference to the 6 December attack in which five militants shot their way into the compound of the US Consulate in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, killing five non-American employees, showed that it was made recently. Four of the attackers were killed and one was wounded in the consulate attack.

"God bless our brothers who stormed the American Consulate in Jiddah," the speaker said. "Those who were killed of our brothers, we ask God to accept them as martyrs."

Also Thursday, an audiotape surfaced on the same site that was purportedly a recording of the sounds of the consulate attack transmitted via the attackers' mobile phones. Sirens, machine gun fire and shouts of "God is Great!" can be heard. At the end, a man recites Quranic verses and then says: "Humiliation for America the infidel and its allies!"

On the tape attributed to bin Laden, the speaker called for change, and derided overtures such as promised municipal elections and a national dialogue Saudi rulers recently initiated to open public debate on democratization and other issues.

"This hasn't changed anything ... the best they can do is that they will go into the elections game as happened before in Yemen and Jordan or Egypt and move in a vicious circle for dozens of years, this is regardless of the fact that it is prohibited to enter the infidel legislative councils," the speaker said.

Addressing Saudi rulers, the speaker said: "You must know that people are fed up ... security will not be able to stop them."

The speaker accused all Arab leaders of being puppets of the United States, singling out, in addition to Saudi rulers, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

The speaker, in calm and even tones, accused Saudi rulers of "violating God's rules," a common theme of bin Laden, who accuses Saudi rulers of being insufficiently Islamic and too close to the "infidel" United States.

"The sins the regime committed are great ... it practiced injustices against the people, violating their rights, humiliating their pride," the speaker said. He accused the Saudi royal family of misspending public money while "millions of people are suffering from poverty and deprivation."

The main statement was preceded by Quranic verses, a rhetorical device typical of bin Laden.

Saudi Arabia cracked down on Muslim extremists after the May 2003 bombings of three residential compounds in Riyadh brought terrorism home to the kingdom, but has not been able to stamp out the violence.

Bin Laden, believed hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, last reached out to his followers in October, with a videotape aired on the Arabic TV station Al-Jazeera. In that statement, he for the first time clearly took responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and said America could avoid another such strike if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims.

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