World Divided Over Authenticity of Bin Laden Tape
Islamonline & News Agencies, 14 December 2001
DOHA, Dec. 14 (Islamonline & News Agencies) – The world was divided Friday over the Osama bin Laden videotape with Arabs and many Asian countries casting doubt on the authenticity of a tape that U.S. officials claim is a "smoking gun" proving allegations that bin Laden plotted the deadly September 11 attacks on the United States, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
"Far from revealing the truth, airing the videotape in this manner will only thicken the mystery surrounding the whole affair," reported the Qatari newspaper, Al-Sharq. "Without going into the content of the tape, which is of poor quality in terms of both picture and sound, or into whether it can serve as legal proof against bin Laden, is the release of the video in this way and at this time part of the media war waged by Washington against its enemies?"
"If the United States is confident of the evidence contained in the tape, it should have presented it to the courts instead of airing it on television," Al-Sharq added.
Bin Laden was shown on the often jerky, muffled amateur videotape in meetings with associates, apparently in Afghanistan, rejoicing over the scale of the carnage in the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, said AFP.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said he failed to see how anyone could doubt bin Laden was to blame after viewing the tape, which was released by the Pentagon on Thursday.
But many Arabs have dismissed the tape as a fake, news agencies reported Friday.
Many said they believe the tape is a public relations gimmick dreamed up by the U.S. administration, BBC’s online news service reported. They said they mistrust the translation of bin Laden, which was necessary as the recording is of both very poor audio and visual quality.
In Jordan, political analyst Labib Kamhawi said that even if the video is genuine, bin Laden’s praise for the attacks "does not prove that bin Laden was responsible" for them, said BBC.
However, a leading Saudi dissident in London, who asked not to be named, said he was sure the recording was genuine because of the language used and topics discussed.
In the United Arab Emirates, Information Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zaid al-Nahayan said, "There is no doubt in my mind that bin Laden was behind those operations. The tape confirms that in a way that leaves no room for doubt."
But the defense minister of the ousted Taliban regime in Afghanistan told the BBC that he was doubtful about its authenticity, saying it was unlikely that bin Laden would have been naive enough to say such things on a recording.
U.S. intelligence officers are said to have recovered the tape from a house in the eastern Afghan town of Jalalabad following the collapse of the ruling Taliban, who were reportedly harboring bin Laden.
The White House, for its part, hopes the video will bolster international support for its "war on terrorism".
In Egypt, many rejected the tape as definitive proof of bin Laden being the mastermind of the deadly September 11 attacks.
"The United States, with its advanced technology, can very easily make it up," said Abdullah Abdul-Rahman, son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, spiritual leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. "I rule out the fact that American intelligence officers recovered the tape from a cave in Afghanistan. It is very illogical it should be left there in the first place."
An attorney for al-Gama’a Islamiya in Egypt, Montasser El-Zayat, said he felt that "the tape was made with bin Laden’s knowledge," but "did not necessarily implicate him."
But head of state-run Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, Abdul-Moneim Said, considered the tape "a flagrant confession of a criminal."
"They should have broadcast it untranslated to spare us the distortion," he said. " It would have given unrefutable proof as to bin Laden’s involvement."
Meanwhile, Muslim groups in Asia reacted skeptically Friday to the videotape released by Washington.
In Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, Muslim groups questioned the veracity of the muffled amateur videotape showing bin Laden and associates, said AFP.
"We do not believe the video is authentic because, first of all, the images are not clear," Wirawan Adnan, a spokesman and lawyer for the Laskar Jihad group in Indonesia, said.
"Secondly, we question whether Osama would allow any tape recordings to be made of himself discussing the attack," he told AFP. "It is very strange for someone like Osama to let himself be filmed in that situation."
Pakistan’s Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) party dismissed the video as propaganda.
"Americans are trying to justify their genocide of Afghans and Muslims by resorting to such low-quality tricks," said Riaz Durrani, the JUI’s information secretary. "The Americans, if they have evidence, should prove his guilt before a court of law and not TV channels and newspapers run by Jews."
There was also doubt expressed in Malaysia, were the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) argued over the authenticity of the tape.
"I am very skeptical of this evidence because it is produced by the United States," said PAS secretary general, Nasarudin Isa. "With the latest technology, it could be forged. Why did it take so long to produce the video?"
The video, which shows bin Laden sitting on the floor of a room wearing white headgear and a green camouflage jacket, appears to show him boasting of the destruction of the World Trade Center.
But in Pakistan, whose military leadership provided crucial support to the United States after turning its back on the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan, a government spokesman saw the video as vindication of Pakistan’s current policies.
"President Pervez Musharraf said earlier after the evidence was shown to him that there seem to be linkages with Osama bin Laden, and what apparently one saw, what was put out as translation, it vindicates that assessment and proves that what President Musharraf said at that time was correct," he said.
Japan, a frontline ally of the United States in the declared war against terrorism, agreed the release of the video vindicated the campaign against bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan and his Taliban protectors.
"We have received sufficient explanation on proof linking bin Laden already," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters. "I think this reinforces that."
Australia, which has committed more than 100 troops to the operation in Afghanistan, also lined up behind the United States over the tape.
"We believe it adds to the evidence that Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network were responsible for the terrorist attacks on September 11," said a foreign ministry spokeswoman.
In Indonesia, the video was released too late to make most Indonesian newspapers. Only the Kompas carried the story on its front page with a photo taken from the video run on an inside page. Clips of the video were run on daytime TV news programs.
Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) also questioned the tape’s veracity.
"It must be tested in a laboratory to determine whether it is authentic or fake," FPI leader, Habib Rizieq, told AFP. "It may have been manipulated as part of a conspiracy. Technology now is so sophisticated and advanced that it is possible to manipulate videos and photos to create false images."
Rizieq said the FPI still did not believe the Saudi-born bin Laden was involved in the deadly September 11 attacks, and was not about to be convinced by a video from Washington.
The Indonesian Council of Ulemas (Muslim scholars) rejected the tape as definitive proof of bin Laden’s involvement.
"The tape may be real, it may not be, because technology can do anything," the council’s secretary general, Din Syamsuddin, told AFP. "We can’t say whether we believe it or not because we haven’t seen the original, just replays of it on the television.
"It might be evidence, but in our opinion the terror attacks had to have been done in coalition with other groups, including those inside America and intelligence forces from other countries," Syamsuddin said.
Jakarta refused to comment on the video, saying only that it remains committed to the fight against terrorism.
"It is the right of the U.S. to release the video, and they have reason to do it, but it has nothing to do with us," foreign ministry spokesman Wahid Supriyadi told AFP.
"Our commitment to terrorism remains strong and we are against any and all kinds of terrorism.