bin laden videotape was hit-and-run assault on us

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    Bin Laden Videotape Was Hit-and-Run Assault on US Election

    DEBKAfile Special Report

    October 31, 2004, 2:08 AM (GMT+02:00)

    Osama bin Laden’s videotaped warning to the American people aired by al Jazeera Arabic TV Friday, October 29, was as lethal as any terrorist attack.

    “Despite entering the fourth year after Sept. 11, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth. Therefore, the reasons are still there to repeat what happened. Your security,” said the al Qaeda leader, “Is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands and it depends on your policy.”

    Those words were crafted to drop a remote-controlled bomb on the US election 96 hours from the finish line. They were the al Qaeda leader’s first real admission that he was behind the 9/11 attacks, a reminder that three years later he was still at large and a warning that Americans were still at risk – all meant to connect in the American voter’s mind to the ongoing war in Iraq and the failure to turn up Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

    Bin Laden hoped his words would slice into President George W. Bush’s slim lead and encompass his downfall. At the very least, he aimed to dominate the tone and direction of the US presidential election.

    Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge tried to mute the damage by announcing that the national terrorist level would not be raised in the wake of the videotape although he did advise extra vigilance

    Nothing on the tape released Friday gave away information on the speaker’s whereabouts. Although it was dropped in Islamabad a few hours earlier, at the gate of Al Jazeera’s Pakistan bureau chief, Pakistan was quick to deny the fugitive was hiding in that country. “He cannot be in the tribal areas because of the presence of so many troops,” said interior minister Aftab Khan Sherpao. In Afghanistan, the US military suggested he was somewhere near the Afghan-Pakistani border.

    All the intelligence agencies involved in the hunt for the elusive bin Laden - American, Indian, Pakistani and Russian – are reported by DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources to have narrowed down his hiding places fairly closely. They are convinced that, after he gave orders for the tape’s release, he headed out to his winter hideout in the Himalayas or Little Pamir and will stay there until the spring thaw.

    This is not the first time al Qaeda interfered in a Western election. On March 11, 2004, al Qaeda operatives carried out a series of bombings on Madrid trains that left 200 dead shortly before the vote. The pro-American Anzar government was defeated and the new administration hurriedly withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq.

    Then came a surprising statement. Al Qaeda asserted in one of its taped publications that, rather than spill blood, it preferred to enter into dialogue with European nations - provided they met certain conditions such as disengaging from Washington’s policies.

    No European government bought this attempt at manipulation. Our al Qaeda specialists predict that if Kerry is elected, its propagandists will try the same ploy on him too. When they are brushed off, the terrorists will go into action. But if Bush prevails, they will not bother with such delaying tactics before launching into anti-US violence.

    The question of whether or not al Qaeda is still capable of carrying out a large-scale attack in America found no answer on the videotape. But bin Laden knows that whoever is elected to the White House on Tuesday, November 2, the new president will be bound to cut through all the political ifs and buts and seriously approach the daunting task of capturing and killing Osama bin Laden. It may come down to a race to catch him before his underlings carry out their orders to strike. The only way to hold their hand would be to make it known that their leader is caught or dead.

    Bin Laden was actually spotted in the flesh just a few days ago - according to DEBKAfile’s counter terror sources. Between October 17 and October 19, an Indian air force reconnaissance plane picked him up in the Tibet-Laddakh region close to the North-Eastern corner of Pakistan bordering India and China. Additional surveillance aircraft were called in and identified the al Qaeda leader on the move with a 10-vehicle convoy of black Japanese minivans. Four of the vehicles turned up again on October 22 heading east towards the Chinese border. Our sources maintain that the rumored sightings of bin Laden on the Lingzi Thang Plain on the Tibetan border in June may have been true then but are now outdated. In any case, he was not at the time in Pakistani Waziristan or the Afghan-Pakistani border.

    The agents hunting the al Qaeda leader are working on the premise that he has decided to wait out the winter months in one of two regions: Hunza province in the Northern Frontier tip of Indian Kashmir or Little Pamir, where fanatical Tajik tribes have never allowed any Kabul government - whether Taliban or led by Karzai - to secure a foothold. Little Pamir is wedged between Tajikistan

    where Russian special forces taking part in the bin Laden dragnet are deployed and China.

    Before launching the Sept.11 attacks, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahiri, prepared snug havens in the caverns that riddle the towering 5,000-8,000 mountain peaks.

    In the 1970s, the Russians converted the Little Pamir cave warren into subterranean silos for nuclear missiles pointing towards China. But even the Russians found the cold and harsh conditions unendurable and by the mid-1980s the bases were abandoned.

    Sunday, October 24, a senior FBI agent, briefed first in Pakistan, flew from Islamabad to New Delhi to meet Indian security bosses and examine the aerial shots of the bin Laden convoy.

    Our intelligence sources report that, after the American agent studied the data and questioned the Indian intelligence officers who saw the terrorist chief leave his minivan several times, he relayed Washington’s request for the Indian government to put its security forces in the North Western region on red alert and round up troops for combing operations in the region before the snowfall.

    New Delhi complied the next day and also stepped up its vigilance on the Kagil-Leh Highway and along the Tibetan border.

    But before bin Laden disappeared in his mountain fastness, he not only had the videotape posted to al Jazeera, but left with his men precise instructions defining the political circumstances and timing for the next al Qaeda terrorist attack in the United States.

 
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