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Rumsfeld: Little New in Latest bin Laden Tape - 2002-04-15

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says a newly-surfaced videotape showing al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden does not appear to contain fresh material.

Mr. Rumsfeld says it appears the tape obtained by the al-Jazeera Arabic television network is a patchwork of clips, probably from last year. He tells reporters at the Pentagon there is no evidence that it was released personally by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

But Mr. Rumsfeld says whoever did release the tape may have wanted to leave that impression. He outlines several other possible reasons.

"Clearly somebody thought it would be useful to fashion this tape and give it to some network and let them play it," he said. "Why might they do that, I don't know. Maybe they are anxious to inject some more energy into what they are doing. Maybe they're trying to let the world know that these senior people are still alive and well. Maybe they're trying to pretend to the world that they're still alive and well, even though they're not."

In addition to Osama bin Laden, the tape shows one of his top deputies, and includes a segment showing a man believed to be one of the September 11 suicide terrorist hijackers. Osama bin Laden's whereabouts remain unknown. Pentagon officials say it is not certain that he is still alive.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has confirmed at least four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan by what officials say was the accidental explosion of a rocket found near Kandahar, which they were attempting to defuse.

The chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers, says the incident underscores the dangers still facing troops in Afghanistan.

"This tragic event highlights that, even when not actively engaged against enemy forces, our servicemen and women remain at risk as they perform their mission around the world, and particularly in Afghanistan," he said.

He also reports an incident Saturday, in which U.S. forces working with Afghan troops found weapons at what he described as an enemy complex in eastern Afghanistan. He says a convoy involved in the operation came under fire. He says a U.S. air gunship was called in, and it located and killed several "enemy."

General Myers also reports recent incidents in which rocket-propelled grenades were fired near an airfield where U.S. forces are based in Afghanistan.

But he says it is not clear if American soldiers were specifically being targeted, and reports none were killed or injured.

On another matter, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says he has not seen the latest Amnesty International complaint alleging U.S. violations of the human rights of suspected al-Qaida and other detainees.

But Mr. Rumsfeld says he has seen the detainees, and calls their treatment good.