Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Bin Laden says Moussaoui not part of Sept 11

Bin Laden says Moussaoui not part of Sept 11: tape
By Inal Ersan

DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden said Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in a U.S. court for the September 11 attacks, had nothing to do with the operations, according to a Web site audiotape released on Tuesday.

The speaker on the tape, attributed to bin Laden, said he had personally assigned tasks to the 19 hijackers who staged the attacks on U.S. cities which killed about 3,000 people.

"The truth is that he has no connection whatsoever with the events of September 11. I am certain of what I say because I was responsible for entrusting the 19 brothers ... with the raids," said the man, who sounded like the leader of al Qaeda.

The authenticity of the tape posted on a Web site often used by Al Qaeda could not be immediately verified.

"U.S. intelligence is reviewing the tape in an effort to determine whether or not it's authentic. At this point there's no reason to doubt that it's real," a U.S. counterterrorism official told Reuters.

Moussaoui was sentenced on May 4 to life in prison with no chance of release, ending 4-1/2 years of legal wrangling over his fate.

The 37-year-old French citizen of Moroccan descent pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy in connection with the attacks, in which hijacked airliners were flown into buildings in New York City and Washington D.C.

"The participants in September 11th were two groups: pilots and support teams for each pilot in order to control the aircraft. And since Zacarias Moussaoui was learning how to fly, it follows that he was not the 20th person in the teams which helped to control the airplanes, as your (U.S.) government previously claimed," said the speaker in a message to Americans.


Some U.S. officials initially said they believed Moussaoui was to have taken part in the September 11 attacks as a 20th hijacker. Others later said he was supposed to have been part of a second wave of attacks that were not carried out.

"His confession that he was assigned to participate in those raids is a false confession which no intelligent person doubts is a result of the pressure put upon him for the past four and a half years," the speaker said.

Commenting on the remarks, the U.S. official said: "What it is more than anything else is a part of his continuing propaganda campaign and an effort on his part to suggest 'hey, I know what happened. I was the one who was responsible for it.' He feels the need to reiterate that."

He said out of hundreds of people held on suspicion of links to the attacks only two captives had a connection to the attacks, but did not name them.

"I call to memory my brothers the prisoners in Guantanamo, may Allah free them all, and I state a fact, about which I am also certain; All the prisoners of Guantanamo, who were captured in 2001 and the first half of 2002 ... had no connection whatsoever to the events of September 11," he said.

The U.S. Administration was holding the suspected militants to justify the hefty costs of its war against "mujahideen".

"Many of them have no connection with al Qaeda...," he said listing two Al Jazeera television workers -- Tayseer Alouni and Sami al-Hajj.

Syrian-born Alouni was convicted by a Spanish court for conspiring with al Qaeda militants and Sudanese cameraman Hajj is held in Guantanamo with no known charge.

(Additional reporting by Caroline Drees in Washington)