Site claims bin Laden's message

By ANWAR IQBAL, UPI South Asian Affairs Analyst   |   Feb. 20, 2002 at 8:13 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A new Arabic language Web site offering information on the post-Taliban Afghanistan has started carrying statements and messages it says are by Saudi terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden.

Earlier this week, the site -- www.alneda.com -- placed a joint condolence message it said was from bin Laden, his Egyptian lieutenant, Dr. Ayman l-Zawahiri, and Taliban leaders Mullah Mohammad Omar and Mullah Mohammad Hasan on the death of Pakistani religious scholar Shaikh Hamza Dani.

Dani died in Karachi, Pakistan, last week.

Bin Laden, if he is still alive, has been quiet since the collapse of the Taliban regime on Nov. 13. Last month, CNN showed an interview the Saudi fugitive gave to the Qatar-based al Jazeera satellite network. The interview was recorded in eastern Afghanistan before the Taliban's collapse.

Although the content of the six-page message on the Web site could not be independently verified, it is the first such message attributed to bin Laden. It also may be the first joint statement by bin Laden, Omar and other senior Taliban and al Qaida leaders.

Bin Laden has been missing since the United States bombed his cave-complex at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan in early December. Omar hasn't spoken since his stronghold, Kandahar, fell in December.

The Web site did not mention how it received the message and where it was issued. It did not say whether the four men jointly signed the statement or separately endorsed it.

"If the condolence message was indeed sent by the four men, it could be taken as evidence that they were alive," wrote senior Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai in Thursday edition of the News newspaper. "It would also mean that they were in contact with each other and also with those who maintain the Web site."

Yusufzai is one of the few people to have interviewed both bin Laden and Omar more than once.

On Wednesday, a London-based Arabic language newspaper, al Hayat, carried a report saying bin Laden, al Zawahiri and Omar were still alive. It was based on an al Neda report.

The Web site was said to have been launched a few weeks ago, but it is not clear who runs it or where it is based.

The News quoted an Arab source as saying that "the Web site is run from somewhere in Afghanistan."

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