Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden threatened new attacks were being prepared against the United States, according to an audiotape attributed to him and broadcast on al-Jazeera television on Thursday.
But the voice on the tape, broadcast a week after a US strike against al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan, also offered the American people a ”long term truce”.
”The delay in [attacks] is not because of security measures taken… These operations are being prepared and you will see their results,” the voice said, addressing the American people.
”We have no objection to offering you a long-term truce based on fair conditions that we will adhere to, because we are a nation that has been forbidden by God to backstab or lie,” he said.
The tape, whose authenticity could not be immediately verified, comes after a long period of silence from the Western world’s most wanted man.
Bin Laden had previously not been heard of since a December 27, 2004 audiotape in which he anointed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq’s most wanted man, as al-Qaeda’s leader in the war-torn country.
The White House declined immediate comment on the tape, while a US official later said it was not yet clear whether the voice on the audiotape was really bin-Laden’s, or whether it was recorded recently.
Al-Jazeera broadcast three extracts from the poor-quality audiotape lasting just a few minutes. The message gave no indication about the precise date of when it was recorded.
It did refer to attacks against ”the main European countries in the coalition” although it did not mention any by name.
In December last year, al-Jazeera aired a videotape it said dated back to September showing al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri claiming that bin Laden was still alive and leading jihad or holy war against the West.
”Al-Qaeda for holy war is still, thanks to God, a base for jihad. Its prince Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, still leads the jihad,” said Zawahiri.
US officials believe that bin Laden, the Western world’s most wanted terror mastermind, and other key al-Qaeda militants have been sheltering somewhere along the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Bin Laden, behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has a $25-million bounty on his head.
Pakistani officials said on Thursday that around four al-Qaeda militants had been killed in a US air strike last Friday, reportedly including the son-in-law of Zawahiri and a bomb expert on the US most wanted list.
Al-Zawahiri was the target of last Friday’s attack by Central Intelligence Agency Predator drones but Pakistani officials say the Egyptian was likely not there at the time.
Bin Laden’s last video appearance dates back to December 16, 2004 when he also called on his fighters to strike Gulf oil supplies and warned Saudi leaders they risked a popular uprising.
The al-Qaeda leader’s previous period of silence had been the longest since the September 11 attacks.
Regular tapes or videos broadcast by Egyptian-born al-Zawahiri, seen as the ideological brains of the network, has only served to feed feverish speculation on what has happened to bin Laden.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said last year he did not know whether bin Laden was dead or alive, adding that he would not like to speculate over his fate. – Sapa-AFP