/ 15 July 2007

Bin Laden makes rare appearance in al-Qaeda video

Osama bin Laden praises martyrdom in a new videotape posted on a militant website on Sunday by al-Qaeda’s media-production wing.

The Bin Laden clip, which lasted less than a minute, was undated and part of a 40-minute video featuring purported al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan paying tribute to fellow militants who had been killed in the country.

Bin Laden glorifies those who die in the name of Jihad, or holy war, saying even the Prophet Muhammad ”had been wishing to be a martyr”.

”The happy [man] is the one that God has chosen him to be a martyr,” adds Bin Laden, who appears weary and is shown outdoors wearing army fatigues.

Bin Laden was last heard from in a July 1 2006 audio tape in which he voiced support for the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and warned nations not to send troops to fight a hard-line Islamic regime that had seized power in Somalia.

Sunday’s video, dedicated to Muslims who have left their homes to fight jihad, included a series of animated scenes showing green fields overlaid with Arabic names written in gold, representing Arab fighters who had died in Afghanistan.

Following one such sequence, the self-proclaimed leader of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan appears praising his fellow fighters.

”Your hero sons, courageous knights have left to the land of Afghanistan … the land of jihad and martyrdom, answering the call for the sake of God to kick out the occupier who has desecrated the pure soil of Afghanistan,” says Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed.

In another clip, a man identified as Mujahid Haidarah al-Hawn is shown sitting in front of a tree with an AK-47 paying tribute to a Syrian fighter, Osama al-Hamawi, who died in an air raid in Afghanistan.

”I lived with him for four years,” says al-Hawn, who wears a black scarf to cover his face. ”He used to be my emir [commander] … he was a brother with extreme modesty.”

A photo of al-Hamawi’s face, apparently taken after his death, was broadcast, showing bruises around his eye and a red gash on his forehead.

A bearded man identified as Abu Yahia al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaeda operative in Afghanistan, appears in the video wearing a black turban, saying the Muslim world is ”offering the best of its men and sacrificing the good of its sons … to protect its ideology”.

Al-Libi escaped United States custody in 2005 and is believed to be behind a suicide bombing that killed 23 people outside the main US base in Afghanistan during a February visit by US Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Several other al-Qaeda operatives from various countries who had apparently committed suicide attacks in Afghanistan were shown reading statements lashing out at the West before their deaths.

The video also contained a series of clips with militants wearing traditional Afghan dress and carrying rifles and rocket launchers through the mountains. Militants could also be seen exercising in training camps.

At the end of the broadcast, images of the September 11 attacks are shown, and a voice can be heard saying: ”In a few days, the crusaders’ landmarks were flattened.”

The authenticity of the video could not be verified, but it appeared on a website commonly used by Islamic militants and carried the logo of as-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media-production wing. — Sapa-AP