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Bin Laden praises Zarqawi in tape

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 1, 2006


The 19-minute tape was the latest in a string of messages from the al-Qaida leader this year that have been strong on propaganda but have said little about how the terror network will continue its fight against the United States - raising questions about bin Laden's level of control.

Bin Laden has not appeared in a video since October 2004 and did not issue any messages in 2005. This year, he has made four tapes, part of a stepped-up media campaign by him and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The voice on the tape has not been confirmed as bin Laden's.

The message paid tribute to the slain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, seeking to show the Islamic militant was bin Laden's follower.

The Jordanian-born Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike on June 7, became a hero among extremists by positioning himself as al-Qaida's leading militant in Iraq.

The tape praised Zarqawi in rhymed couplets traditional to Islamic poetry, calling him a "lion of Islam" who was "not just an honor to his tribe, his country and his Islamic nation, but to all mankind."

The narration accompanied a video showing old footage of Zarqawi, in a split screen with an old photo of bin Laden.

Al-Qaida's central leadership is believed to have differed with Zarqawi, criticizing his strategy of targeting Shiite civilians with suicide bombings in an attempt to spark a civil war in Iraq.

The tape defended Zarqawi, saying he had "clear instructions" to focus on U.S.-led forces in Iraq but also was free to mount attacks on anyone who sided with the U.S.-led coalition.

The tape also addressed Bush, saying, "We will continue to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan to run down your resources and kill your men until you return defeated to your nation."

But like other tapes this year, there was little sign of the direction of bin Laden's fight. He issued a message in January warning his followers were planning a new attack in the United States. But his other three since then have been more focused on current events, including U.N. plans for a peacekeeping force in Sudan. He issued a message saying Zacarias Moussaoui, just convicted in the United States, had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I think he's conscious that while he's been doing all the talking, al-Zarqawi has been doing all the fighting," said Bruce Hoffman, a RAND counterterrorism expert based in Washington.

HOW HE SOUNDED: Osama bin Laden's voice sounded tired in a new 19-minute tape, and once again he conspicuously avoided showing his face in a Web message.

WHAT DID HE SAY: The al-Qaida leader paid tribute to the slain Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, seeking to show one of Islamic extremists' most popular fighters was his follower.

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Bin Laden's reluctance to appear on video probably does not indicate poor health but is likely a security measure, to prevent hints of his location from slipping out.

CAIRO - The apparent voice of Osama bin Laden sounded tired in a tape released Friday and, once again, the tape conspicuously avoided showing his face.