Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden eulogized a September 11 hijacker as a rare and magnificent man in a tape released yesterday to mark the sixth anniversary of the attacks on the United States.
Hijacker Waleed al-Shehri, seen delivering his last testament dressed in white robes and turban, denounces his enemies as cowards, and vows: "We shall come at you from your front, back, right and left and from above and below you."
In the 47-minute videotape release by Al-Qaida's media arm As-Sahab, what appeared to be bin Laden's voice can be heard over a still image of him, praising Shehri. There was no immediate independent confirmation the voice was bin Laden's.
"This talk of mine consists of some reflections on the will of a young man who personally penetrated the most extreme degrees of danger and is a rarity among men: one of the 19 champions," bin Laden says in his preamble.
"Shehri is one of these magnificent men whom the verses of the revelation affected in the same way they affected the first Muslims and picked them up and took him from the narrow worries of this world to the spaciousness of ... the hereafter, purifying his soul, firming up his heart and enlightening his sight and perception."
The video entitled "The Wills of the Heroes of the Raids on New York and Washington" was posted on Al-Qaida-linked websites. It did not appear to include any moving images of bin Laden, but it did include English subtitles.
It was unclear when the video was recorded and the authenticity of the tape could not be immediately confirmed, but the image of bin Laden appeared to be taken from his latest video address to the American people.
Last week, bin Laden issued his first video message in nearly three years. He made no specific threats but said the United States was vulnerable and Americans must embrace Islam to avert war.
Security analysts said the message could be a call for new attacks. White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend rejected that view and called bin Laden "virtually impotent".
US director of national intelligence Michael McConnell said the United States worries about "sleeper cells" in the country as well as "lone wolves" who self-radicalise.
"We are safer today but we are not safe. We have to maintain our vigilance," he told ABC television.
As-Sahab has in the past marked the anniversary of the September 11 attacks with videos of last testaments of the 19 hijackers.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the hijacked jetliner attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon and brought a plane crashing into a Pennsylvania field.
Bin Laden said that Shehri was unlucky enough to be born in a time when the world was under Christian and Jewish control and took action to restore Muslim dignity.
"So how can we sit today when the free women are in the prisons of the Nazarenes (Christians) and the Jews in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan?" he said.
"It is compulsory for us to help and liberate them ... repelling the enemies from the Muslims and relieving their anguish."
Source: China Daily/agencies