By David Bamber
OSAMA BIN LADEN has for the first time admitted that his al-Qa’eda group carried out the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Telegraph can reveal.
In a previously undisclosed video which has been circulating for 14 days among his supporters, he confesses that “history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents”.
In the footage, shot in the Afghan mountains at the end of October, a smiling bin Laden goes on to say that the World Trade Centre’s twin towers were a “legitimate target” and the pilots who hijacked the planes were “blessed by Allah”.
The killing of at least 4,537 people was justified, he claims, because they were “not civilians” but were working for the American system.
Bin Laden also makes a direct personal threat against Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, for the first time, and warns nations such as Australia, Germany and Japan to stay out of the conflict.
The video will form the centrepiece of Britain and America’s new evidence against bin Laden, to be released this Wednesday.
The footage, to which the Telegraph obtained access in the Middle East yesterday, was not made for public release via the al-Jazeera television network used by bin Laden for propaganda purposes in the past. It is believed to be intended as a rallying call to al-Qa’eda members.
In the video, bin Laden says: “The Twin Towers were legitimate targets, they were supporting US economic power. These events were great by all measurement. What was destroyed were not only the towers, but the towers of morale in that country.”
The hijackers were “blessed by Allah to destroy America’s economic and military landmarks”. He freely admits to being behind the attacks: “If avenging the killing of our people is terrorism then history should be a witness that we are terrorists. Yes, we kill their innocents and this is legal religiously and logically.”
In a contradictory section, however, bin Laden justifies killing the occupants of the Twin Towers because they were not civilians – Islam forbids the killing of innocent civilians even in a holy war.
He says: “The towers were supposed to be filled with supporters of the economical powers of the United States who are abusing the world. Those who talk about civilians should change their stand and reconsider their position. We are treating them like they treated us.”
Bin Laden goes on to justify his entire terror campaign. “There are two types of terror, good and bad. What we are practising is good terror. We will not stop killing them and whoever supports them.”
He directly threatens the lives of President Bush and Mr Blair. “Bush and Blair don’t understand anything but the power of force. Every time they kill us, we kill them, so the balance of terror can be achieved.” He also calls on all Muslims to join him. “It is the duty of every Muslim to fight. Killing Jews is top priority.”
Bin Laden warns other nations to keep out of the conflict, implying that they could face terror attacks if they do not.
In the video, he also claims responsibility for an unspecified terrorist outrage in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which he claims was sparked by secret messages in one of his videos.
He admits for the first time using public pronouncements on video to whip up terrorism – a danger about which the British and American governments have warned broadcasters.
It is significant that throughout the video he uses the personal pronouns “I” and “we” to claim responsibility for the attacks. In the past, he has spoken of the attackers only in the third person.
Bin Laden has publicly issued four previous videos since September 11, always denying carrying out the atrocities.
He now claims to have access to nuclear and chemical weapons. Bin Laden made the claims on Friday night during an interview with the English language Pakistani newspaper Dawn.
He said: “If America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent.”
Defence analysts dismissed these claims. They said that although bin Laden could have access to nuclear material through links with Pakistan or former Soviet republics, he was unlikely to have the technology to cause an explosion.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We know that he was looking for that capability. We believe he does not have it.”
Emergency powers to imprison suspected international terrorists indefinitely using special closed courts will be announced this week. The measure, which will require exemption from human rights legislation, will be used to round up about 20 suspects hiding in Britain beyond the reach of existing laws.