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White House Believes Bin Laden Tape Is Authentic

Osama bin Laden's audiotape as presented on Al-Jazeera on April 23 (AFP) April 24, 2006 -- The White House says U.S. intelligence agencies believe a new audiotape purportedly released by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is authentic.

If the tape proves genuine, it would be the first from bin Laden since January 19.

In the audiotape broadcast on 23 April on Al-Jazeera television, the speaker says the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and the international isolation of the new Hamas-led Palestinian government are proof that the West is waging "a crusader-Zionist war against Muslims."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that Washington believes the Al-Qaeda leadership is on the run and under a lot of pressure.

In related news, Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao, said on April 24 that Islamabad has no information about bin Laden's whereabouts. There has long been speculation that bin Laden is hiding in tribal regions of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Sherpao added that Pakistan's efforts to fight terrorism are not focused only on trapping bin Laden.

(compiled from agency reports)