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New Bin Laden Tape Claims, Threatens Attacks


An InterCenter screen grab from As-Sahab Media that accompanied a January 2009 audio statement also believed to have come from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
DUBAI (Reuters) -- Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the December 25 failed bombing of a U.S.-bound plane and promised more attacks on the United States, in an audiotape Al Jazeera said today was of the Al-Qaeda leader.

Bin Laden, speaking days ahead of major international meetings on how to deal with militancy in Afghanistan and Yemen, said the attempt to blow up the plane as it neared Detroit was a continuation of Al-Qaeda policy since September 11, 2001.

"The message sent to you with the attempt by the hero Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a confirmation of our previous message conveyed by the heroes of Sept. 11," bin Laden said on the tape in a message addressed "from Osama to [U.S. President Barack] Obama."

"If it was possible to carry our messages to you by words, we wouldn't have carried them to you by planes," bin Laden said.

A White House top adviser has said he cannot confirm the authenticity of the audiotape.

"I can't confirm that [Al-Qaeda's responsibility for the attack] nor can we confirm the authenticity of the tape, but assuming that it is him, his message contains the same hollow justifications for the mass slaughter of innocents that we've heard before," David Axelrod said on CNN's "State of the Union" program.

The botched Christmas Day attack, claimed last month by the Yemen-based regional wing of Al-Qaeda, and subsequent threats in Yemen sparked global pressure for a crackdown, prompting Sanaa to declare open war on the militant group within its territory.

Defense and counterterrorism officials say Washington has been quietly supplying military equipment, intelligence and training to Yemen to destroy suspected Al-Qaeda hide-outs.

Yemen, since the plane bomb attempt, has launched a series of air strikes targeting Al-Qaeda leaders and has declared that some top regional leaders including Qasim al-Raymi and Ayed al-Shabwani have been killed.

Al-Qaeda denies the deaths, and Yemen has subsequently launched further attacks on the rural home of Shabwani and given no clues as to the result.

On today's tape, bin Laden cited Washington's support for Israel as a motivator for more attacks on the United States, and vowed to keep on as long as Palestinians cannot live in peace.

"Our attacks against you will continue as long as U.S. support for Israel continues," he said. "It is not fair that Americans should live in peace as long as our brothers in Gaza live in the worst conditions."

Soldiers Killed In Yemen

Britain, ahead of the meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen on January 27 and 28 in London, raised its terrorism threat level to 'severe' -- the second highest level -- on January 22.

The decision to raise the level from 'substantial' means security services now consider an attack in Britain, a key U.S. ally, to be "highly likely." But the government said it had no information to suggest an attack was imminent.

Yemen, with its reputation as an Al-Qaeda haven, attracted closer scrutiny after crackdowns on the group in Pakistan and Afghanistan raised fears the country was becoming a prime training and recruiting center for militants.

The high profile meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen are aimed at galvanizing efforts to stabilise both nations and stop Al-Qaeda from using either as a base.

The Afghanistan meeting on January 27 is meant to chart a path for the country to take greater responsibility for its security. Britain says the meeting also will look at how Afghanistan's neighbours could work together to help stabilize it.

On January 27, foreign ministers of Yemen's main Western and Gulf partners will also meet to try to mobilize support for the country and identify what needs to be done by the government and its allies to tackle its challenges.

In addition to fighting a resurgent Al-Qaeda, Yemen is also fighting a separate northern Shi'ite rebellion and trying to contain southern separatists.

Three Yemeni soldiers were killed in an attack at a Yemeni checkpoint by suspected southern separatists, a Yemeni official said today, in a province where the state is also hunting Al-Qaeda.