President Bush says U.S. officials are still analyzing the voice on a tape broadcast by Qatar's Al-Jazeera television claiming to be that of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. If confirmed, it would be the first proof in about a year that the terrorist leader is still alive.
President Bush says intelligence officials are analyzing the voice content of the audio to determine if it is the al-Qaida leader.
The tape broadcast Tuesday praised recent terrorist attacks in Bali, Kuwait, Yemen and Russia saying they were carried out in defense of Islam and were a reaction to Israel's use of American planes to kill Palestinians. It also warned of reprisals if the United States attacks Iraq.
While the president said it is not yet clear who is speaking, he said the tape itself is a serious reminder of the continuing terrorist threat. "The contents of the tape, the message is a serious message and it should remind all Americans, and remind our friends and allies, that there is an active enemy that continues to hate and is willing to use murder as a way to achieve their goals," Mr. Bush said.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with his cabinet Wednesday, Mr. Bush said the audio tape shows the need to continue the U.S.-led fight against international terrorism. "Whoever put this tape out has put the world on notice yet again that we're at war and that we need to take these messages very seriously. And we will," he said.
If the tape is from Osama bin Laden, it would be the first proof that he survived a massive U.S. bombing campaign during the fight against al-Qaida and Afghanistan's Taleban government.
White House officials say if Mr. bin Laden is alive, he is on the run and his terrorist network has been disrupted. Following the September 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, President Bush said the al-Qaida leader was the "prime suspect" and was "wanted dead or alive."
Since then, the president has downplayed Mr. bin Laden's importance, saying the anti-terrorism campaign is not focused on any individual.