Bin Laden surfaces in Al Qaeda video

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden praises martyrdom as a weapon and a path to glory for Muslims in a video that CNN said on Saturday was intercepted before it was to appear on radical Islamist Web sites.

CNN, which noted it could not verify the authenticity of the 40-minute video and had translated it from Arabic into English, said on its Web site there was no indication of where or when the footage had been shot.

The news network said the video contained old clips but concluded it had been compiled in the last four weeks.

The environment in which bin Laden is shown speaking is similar to that on releases made before the September 11 suicide attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants in 2001.

Octavia Nasr, CNN’s senior editor for Arab affairs, said bin Laden appears in only a 50-second portion of the video in which he asserts the Prophet Mohammed had wanted to be a martyr.

“What is this status that the best of mankind wished for himself?” CNN said bin Laden asked rhetorically. “He wished to be a martyr. He himself said: ‘By Him in whose hands my life is! I would love to attack and be martyred.”‘

“This glorious prophet who was inspired by God summarized this entire life by these words. He wished upon himself this status. Happy is one who was chosen by God as a martyr,” bin Laden said, according to the CNN translation of his remarks.

PRAISE FOR COMRADES

Mustafa abu al-Yazid, named as al Qaeda’s new commander in Afghanistan in May, also appears in the video praising fighters ready to die for the cause of jihad, or holy war.

The video is a compilation of documentary footage and testimony by fellow militants praising fallen Islamists from areas ranging from north Africa to Tajikistan in central Asia. Some of the militants are seen reading their final testaments.

CNN did not say how the footage had been intercepted. But a segment of the video, produced by al Qaeda’s media arm al-Sahab, was seen on the lauramansfield.com Web site which provides Arabic translations and terrorism analysis.

Bin Laden, wearing army fatigues, appeared to be weary and weak while addressing followers.

For the past several weeks, radical Islamist Web sites have proclaimed there will be “good news soon from Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” CNN reported.

The Senate voted on Friday to double the bounty on bin Laden to $50 million and require President George W. Bush to refocus on capturing the Saudi-born militant after reports that al Qaeda is gaining strength.

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush said he wanted bin Laden caught dead or alive. But a year before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bush shifted his emphasis, saying he did not know bin Laden’s whereabouts and “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

Top U.S. intelligence officials told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee this week that residents of remote northwestern Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding, have proven to be impervious to the financial rewards already offered by the U.S. government.