Voice on tape 'probably that of Osama bin Laden'

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The voice featured on a tape accompanying video footage of Osama bin Laden was probably that of the al-Qa'ida leader, a CIA official said yesterday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that experts made their decision after an extensive technical analysis of the audio tape, aired on an Arab satellite channel on Wednesday. The official said that the experts weren't completely certain. The CIA official added that there were no references in the recording that would indicate when it was made.

The intelligence agency also confirmed yesterday that the second voice on the recording was that of Ayman al-Zawahri, Bin Laden's second-in-command.

President George Bush said on Thursday that the tape "reminds us that the war on terror goes on". He added: "His rhetoric is trying to intimidate and create fear. He's not going to intimidate America. We are at war because of what he and his fellow killers decided to do two years ago today.

"We will stay the course until we have achieved our objective and dismantled the terrorist organisations."

The videotape footage was originally broadcast on al-Jazeera. An audio tape featured two voices, one purportedly belonging to Bin Laden and the other to Zawahri, an official said.

Initially, the technical analysis of the section with Bin Laden's voice was inconclusive, the official said.

In the recording, Zawahri mentioned the war in Iraq, which suggested that the tape might have been recorded sometime since the fighting started in March. He said: "We salute the brothers in Iraq and press on their hands and ask Allah to bless their sacrifices and valour in fighting the crusaders."

The voice purported to be Bin Laden speaks of some of the 11 September hijackers and praises them for making "great damages to the enemy", but makes no reference to more recent events.