Tags: Jazeera | Man | Talks | Bin | Laden | Tape

Al Jazeera Man Talks of Bin Laden Tape

Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM

"He was not wearing a mask. So I saw his face and I had never seen him before," Ahmed Muhaffaq Ziedan told United Press International of the tape's courier.

In a telephone interview with United Press International from Pakistan, Ziedan said someone called him "at my home on Tuesday night and said he has an important message for me.

"He asked me to meet him at a public place. I went there and was soon approached by a young man," said Ziedan, adding that he could not describe the man's feature because he was "afraid" and did not "look at him very closely."

"I did not see whether he came in a car or used a public transport and I did not try to follow him either. I was afraid."

Ziedan said the man gave him a TDK audiocassette and went away. "I rushed back to my car and played the tape, it was bin Laden's voice," he said. "There's no doubt about it. It was his voice," said Ziedan who interviewed bin Laden in 2000 and 2001 and also has had several group meetings with the al Qaida chief.

Ziedan, Al Jazeera 's correspondent in Islamabad since 2000, also has written a book on bin Laden and believes the man is alive.

"The messenger asked me to come to a crowded place where he could easily mingle with the crowd and that's what he did. He came to me, and said he has a tape for me from bin Laden and disappeared. It took less than half a minute," said the Al Jazeera correspondent. "I tried to ask some questions but he did not respond.

"It was a brief message, less than three minutes. I played the tape again and again and was 100 percent sure it's bin Laden. So I immediately transmitted it to Al Jazeera."

Ziedan said he believes bin Laden is alive because al Qaida does not hide the death of its leaders. "Every time somebody dies, they announce it proudly, saying such and such leader has been martyred," he said.

He also dismissed speculation that bin Laden had already left Afghanistan when the U.S. forces launched a military offensive in October 2001.

"My sources tell me bin Laden was there with his people in Tora Bora and disappeared only after the U.S. forces destroyed his last hideout," said Ziedan.

He said after its defeat in Afghanistan, al Qaida has become even more dangerous. "It is no more a party or group with a command structure and an organization. Extremists groups from Indonesia to the Middle East are now using al Qaida's names to attack U.S. and Western interests."

This, he said, also suits al Qaida as it no longer calls for an ideological struggle or a political campaign. "It simply urges its followers to attack economic and political interests of the United States and its allies and that's what these people are doing. They may not be directly affiliated with al Qaida but they are doing its job."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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"He was not wearing a mask. So I saw his face and I had never seen him before," Ahmed Muhaffaq Ziedan told United Press International of the tape's courier. In a telephone interview with United Press International from Pakistan, Ziedan said someone called him "at my home...
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Thursday, 14 November 2002 12:00 AM
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