Monday, October 22, 2007

Now showing: Bin Laden on Al-Jazeera

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on insurgents in Iraq to unite and avoid divisions in a new audiotape aired Monday on Al-Jazeera television, according to reports, including by the Associated Press.

The message, issued to commemorate the Eid, is part of a longer message that is expected to be released through the internet shortly, said anti-terrorism experts Laura Mansfield on their site.

Today's audiotaped message, released through Al Jazeera, was directed specifically to the "mujahideen" of Iraq. The message calls for them to unite and join forces, and avoid sectarian fighting within the jihadist groups, Laura Mansfield added.

"Some of you have been lax in one duty, which is to unite your ranks," bin Laden said in the audiotape. "Beware of division ... The Muslim world is waiting for you to gather under one banner."

The authenticity of the tape could not be immediately confirmed, but the voice resembled that of bin Laden in previous messages. Al-Jazeera did not say how it obtained the tape, according to the Associated Press.

Bin Laden’s last message was a threat to President Musharraf of Pakistan. Ahead of the commemoration of 9/11, Al Qaeda distributed a video appeal to Christians to convert to Islam, attempting to point similarities between the two faiths.

In his new avatar, Laden did not directly threaten the American people, instead focusing on convincing his listeners that they and the Muslims were on the same side, all victims of the capitalist system.

The US has claimed that it has been able to win over the Sunni opposition to Al Qaeda of Mesopotamia in Iraq. Bin Laden is probably referring to this split in his speech, or to divisions in the ranks of the Al Qaeda itself.

The frequency of communications by Bin Laden does however raise doubts that he may be losing his touch. He is beginning to come across as a fading film star, refusing to let the curtain come down on his act.

If he wanted to unite insurgents in Iraq, he had access to other means, besides a televised audiotape. Splits in any movement are kept a closely guarded secret, more so in a terrorist outfit. Bin Laden is either losing his hold on Al Qaeda, and is trying to prove otherwise by these communications, or is trying to distract attention from something more sinister he and Al Qaeda are planning.

Related article:
Osama Bin Laden's seductive new avatar

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