Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Fake Bin Laden Video

New releases from the Osama Bin Laden propaganda machine are often timed to coincide with important political developments in the U.S. and elsewhere. The 2004 U.S. presidential election-eve video comes to mind.

References to current events in the al-Qaeda video that came out during the Petraeus/Crocker appearences in Washington was said to prove that the elusive terrorist mastermind was still alive. That is, until some analysts pointed out that the picture on the video just happened to freeze each time that Bin Laden said anything topical. An easier method for inserting dubious statements has never been invented.

Bin Laden's latest release -- yesterday -- targeted Pakistani President Musharraf in the weeks before crucial elections there. There were no live action shots of Bin Laden at all on this video. Just a still picture with narration. Pakistan is taking it with the due grain of salt:

Pakistan on Friday dismissed Osama bin Laden as a terrorist whose "ridiculous" call for holy war against its U.S.-allied leader will find little echo, despite growing concern that al-Qaida is regrouping near the Afghan border.

In a recording released Thursday, bin Laden urged Pakistanis to wage jihad against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf because of his alliance with the U.S. against Islamic militants.

The al-Qaida chief's message received wide but short-lived media coverage in Pakistan. Attention quickly returned to Musharraf's disputed re-election bid and fast-rising food prices.

But it could feed into a growing debate here about whether Pakistan is sacrificing its own stability by playing such a prominent and prolonged role in a U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

Officials on Friday played down the possible impact of the al-Qaida leader's call.

"If Osama bin Laden has spoken to the people and urged them to rise, and the people were really following him, they would have done so much earlier," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad. "He doesn't have much following here."

Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi said the government wanted to avoid giving bin Laden any more publicity.

"I think a response to such ridiculous rhetoric is just dignifying it. We don't want to do that," Qureshi said.

Bin Laden's message was the third this month after a long lull and came in a flurry of al-Qaida propaganda marking the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan army general turned security analyst, said bin Laden may have singled out Pakistan in order to associate himself with rising anti-Musharraf and anti-American sentiment here.

Bin Laden, whose voice was heard on a video tape showing previously released footage of the al-Qaida leader, branded Musharraf an infidel for attacking Islamabad's Red Mosque, a militant stronghold in the Pakistani capital overrun by commandos in July.

The battle killed more than 100 people, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi, one of the militants' leaders.

The siege "demonstrated Musharraf's insistence on continuing his loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America against the Muslims," bin Laden said. "It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him."


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