Bin Laden praises hijacker on 9/11 anniversary

Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden praised as a “champion” one of the September 11 hijackers in a new video released on Tuesday, the sixth anniversary of the devastating attacks on the United States.

He also called on Muslim youths to join a “caravan” of martyrs, in the second al-Qaeda video in just five days featuring the Western world’s most wanted man, who had not previously been seen for almost three years.

Bin Laden hailed the hijacker, identified as Walid al-Shehri, as a “young man who personally penetrated the most extreme degrees of danger and is a rarity among men: one of the 19 champions [may Allah have mercy on them all],” according to the video released by IntelCentre, a United States-based organisation that monitors Islamist militant websites.

Shehri, a Saudi national, was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Centre on September 11 2001, one of the 19 hijackers involved in the attacks.

In the video, Shehri was shown warning the United States: “We shall come at you from your front and back, your right and left.

“How could we desire anything other than your [Americans] killing, when our Lord has ordered us thus.”

The 47-minute video was the sixth such last will and testament issued by a 9/11 hijacker, 15 of whom hailed from Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden’s birthplace.

“I tell every young man among the youth of Islam: it is your duty to join the caravan until the sufficiency is complete and the march to aid the High and Omnipotent continues,” said Bin Laden.

“So go forth and disperse the darkness of kufr [disbelief],” added the Saudi extremist, who was shown in a still photograph wearing a white robe topped by a beige cloak and with his beard trimmed and dyed in black.

Bin Laden last appeared in a video on Friday, the first sighting of the man since October 2004 when he had threatened new attacks against the United States just days before the US presidential election.

Bin Laden describe Shehri as a “magnificent” man who “would think about how to help his religion and please his Lord and who strived to defend his ummah [Islamic nation].”

Bin Laden also appeared to be urging Muslims to take action to free Muslim women whom he claimed were held in US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Israeli jails.

“How can we sit today when the free women are in the prisons of the Nazarenes and the Jews in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan ... It is compulsory for us to help and liberate them,” he said.

“We are now at the tail-end of the nations, and our rulers are vassals of the rulers of the Nazarenes,” he added.

In Friday’s video, the elusive al-Qaeda chief mocked the United States as “weak” and vowed to escalate fighting in Iraq.

Experts warned that the first video, which was presented as a “message to the American people”, contained hints that al-Qaeda was planning another attack on US targets.

According to Azzam Tamimi, head of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, the beard dye was a “sign of war”.

But US Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell on Monday swiftly rejected any possibility that the hair on his chin was intended to send any signal to his al-Qaeda members.

“So far, we do not think there’s been a signal. He’s done this periodically, as has [Ayman al-] Zawahiri [the group’s second-in-command], and there has not been a correlation necessarily between one of these tapes or a public statement and a particular event,” McConnell said.

In the September 11 2001 attacks, al-Qaeda slammed two jets into the World Trade Centre towers in New York, one crashed into the Pentagon in Washington and another crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after a passenger uprising.

Almost 3 000 people were killed in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbour.—AFP

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