A Claim For The Cole

Islamic militant Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan-based group boasts in a recruitment videotape obtained by CBS News that its followers bombed the USS Cole in Yemen's Aden harbor last year.

And, reports CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton, it carries another message for the West, according to an Arab journalist who has met Bin Laden.

"He's telling everybody I'm still alive and kicking. I'm still active, I'm still preparing for more attacks against my enemies, the Americans, the Israelis," said Abdelbari Atwan, editor of Al Quds.

The video would represent the clearest link yet between bin Laden and the Oct. 12 attack that killed 17 Americans sailors and wounded 39. But Bin Laden himself does not specifically make that claim on the tape and has not accepted responsibility in the past.

Yemeni officials have said they have no evidence personally linking bin Laden, an exiled Saudi millionaire, to the bombing of the U.S. Navy destroyer. But the U.S. government considers him a prime suspect and has sought evidence to tie him to the suicide bombers who detonated an explosives-packed boat alongside the Cole.

"We thank God for granting us victory the day we destroyed Cole in the sea," says a rallying song that runs with footage of bin Laden's masked men training in al-Farouq desert camp in Afghanistan.

"His followers adore him and you know they really listen to him. They are willing to carry out anything he asks them to do," said Atwan.

But he says bin Laden is a hunted man with only a few hundred followers in Afghanistan. He believes the United States makes a mistake by overestimating his importance.

"Without the American media, without the American intelligence service, I don't believe bin laden would be as important as he is now," said Atwan.

The Recruitment Video
In the tape, bin Laden's followers are shown traveling through the rugged desert terrain holding black flags and copies of Islam's holy book, the Quran. They are shown jumping hurdles, handling explosives and practicing with various weapons.

Click here to watch the videotape.
The video begins with a line saying it is presented by "Al-Sahab Productions." There is no indication of where Al-Sahab - which means "the clouds" in Arabic - is located.
The video does not say that it was made or financed on bin Laden's orders. But it contains lengthy footage of bin Laden that could not have been shot without the reclusive leader's knowledge.

At the start of the 100-minute tape, bin Laden, wearing a traditional Yemeni dagger on a belt around his waist, recites a poem that includes these lines:

"And in Aden, they charged and destroyed a destroyer that fearsome people fear, one that evokes horror when it docks and when it sails."

Although the poem does not name the Cole, it is followed by the image of a fiery explosion. Superimposed on the picture in red script are the words, in Arabic, "the destruction of the American Destroyer Cole." Footage of the bombed vessel follows.

The tape describes its purpose as "diagnosing" the illnesses of Muslims today and "prescribing the medicine." It shows footage of injured and dead Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Chechnya, Iraq, Lebanon, Indonesia and Kashmir, as well as American troops in Saudi Arabia during and after the 1991 Gulf War that ended the seven-month Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

The bearded bin Laden, who appears repeatedly preaching from the pulpit of a mosque and talking to his men in the field, says Muslims have to leave countries that are ruled by "allies of Jews and Christians," and come to his camp to be "prepared" for holy war.

In an address to Palestinians at the end of the tape, bin Laden calls for "blood, blood and destruction, destruction."

"We give you the good news that the forces of Islam are coming and the forces of Yemen will continue in the name of God," he says.


Click here to look at bin Laden's worldwide terror network.


In the tape, bin Laden's followers are shown traveling through the rugged desert terrain holding black flags and copies of Islam's holy book, the Quran. They are shown jumping hurdles, handling explosives and target shooting at a large screen with images of former President Clinton and the late King Hussein of Jordan.

The tape ends as it starts, with a verse from the Quran - and with a request for whoever watches it to distribute it.

Meanwhile, authorities have arrested 15 people, eight of whom were believed connected to a plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemeni officials said Tuesday.

CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin reports the arrests began over the weekend after a tip from U.S. intelligence.

The men were allegedly preparing to carry out what one official called a "well-planned" sneak attack on the American embassy.

A senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named, said it was not clear how an attack would be carried out. But the source said the basis for concern was suspicious movement in the vicinity of the embassy by people who appeared to be gathering informatio about security and other aspects of the embassy operation.

An official at the Yemeni Interior Ministry official said that within the past week "the group of eight was observing the activities of U.S. diplomats and had the embassy and surrounding areas under surveillance." Authorities were searching for two more men in the alleged plot.

The activity around the embassy prompted a June 9 warning to U.S. visitors in Yemen to take precautions and forced the closing of the embassy to the public.

When the threat persisted, the FBI decided to withdraw its personnel Sunday, concerned that violence might be directed at them. FBI officials were in Yemen investigating the attack on the USS Cole.

The plot comes in the wake of guilty verdicts against four men for the bombings of two American embassies in Africa.

Prosecutors said those bombings were directed by bin Laden and officials believe — but cannot prove — he is connected to this latest plot as well.



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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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