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SLUG: 3-420 Rohan Gunaratna









Host: U-S officials, who want to remain anonymous, are indicating it is likely the voice on a tape broadcast Tuesday by Qatar's Al-Jazeera television is that of Osama bin Laden. The voice praised recent terrorist attacks around the world, saying the attacks were intended to defend Islam. Further tests are underway to determine whether the voice is that of the al-Qaida leader. If authenticated, the tapes would be the first proof that Osama bin Laden is alive. Rohan Gunaratna (Ro-hahn Goon-uh-raht-na) is the author of the book "Inside al-Qaida: Global Network of Terror." He tells VOA's Sarah Williams he believes the voice on the tape is that of Osama bin Laden.

MR. GUNARATNA: I am also certain that that is the language, the style and the disposition of Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden is alive. And also Osama bin Laden, in his most recent broadcast, is justifying the attacks that took place in October, the attacks in Kuwait, in Yemen and in Bali. And Osama is presenting further justification of attacking allies and friends of the United States. For instance, he means the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, as well as Australia, as future targets.

MS. WILLIAMS: Among the various terrorist activities, he praises the bombings in Bali, and he also praises the recent hostage-taking in a Moscow theater. Was that surprising?

MR. GUNARATNA: Well, it doesn't surprise us, because the man who led that operation, Movsar, was very close to the former commander of the foreign Mujahedin in Chechnya, a man called Khattab. And Khattab was the protg of Osama bin Laden. Khattab trained with Osama bin Laden and was al-Qaida's de facto representative in Chechnya. So, naturally, it was good news for Osama bin Laden that they did conduct an operation in Moscow, although that operation did not go according to plan.

MS. WILLIAMS: If the voice on the tape is that of Osama bin Laden, why is he deciding to broadcast a message at this time?

MR. GUNARATNA: Well, it is because he wants to present justification before he mounts a series of operations. Even if you look at the attacks that he conducted in October, just before the attacks, one week before the attacks, he presented Koranic justification, where he asked the Americans to convert to Islam. Because in history, the Prophet Muhammad, before he attacked his opponents, he always asked his opponents to convert to Islam before. So, likewise, Osama bin Laden, being an Islamist, he is doing exactly the same.

MS. WILLIAMS: So, you think he or his organization is planning further terrorist attacks?

MR. GUNARATNA: Absolutely. And it is very likely that this time they will attack allies and friends of the United States. Because it is very difficult for him to attack inside the United States because of increased security. So, now we are seeing a shift in targeting to allies and friends of the United States, and also softer targets, like economic targets as well as operation centers, and outside the United States.

MS. WILLIAMS: Why do you think he decided to use an audio tape ape to be broadcast as opposed to his previous appearances, which were made -- actually, they were visual tapes, there were pictures of him in addition to his voice?

MR. GUNARATNA: Well, it is because when a terrorist's picture is shown, his current identity will be known, exposed. So, naturally, he doesn't want his identity to be exposed, because he is currently under high threat. And that is the only reason we have only heard his voice and we haven't seen how he looks like.

MS. WILLIAM: So, you think he perhaps has changed his appearance in some way?

MR. GUNARATNA: Very likely. Otherwise it is very difficult for him to survive in the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Host: Rohan GUNARATNA (Ro-hahn Goon-uh-raht-na), the author of the book "Inside al-Qaida: Global Network of Terror," speaking from London.



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