In his boldest claim yet regarding 9/11, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr, Osama bin Laden bluntly said "I was the only one responsible for it."
Bin Laden added it was unjust for the United States to have invaded Afghanistan for sheltering him after the 9/11 attacks.
"The events of Manhattan were retaliation against the American-Israeli alliance's aggression against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, and I am the only one responsible for it. The Afghan people and government knew nothing about it. America knows that," he said.
The al Qaeda leader said European nations joined the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan "because they had no other alternative, only to be a follower."
"The American tide is ebbing, with God's help, and they will go back to their countries," he said, speaking of Europeans.
Bin Laden urged Europeans to pull away from the fight in Afghanistan.
"It is better for you to stand against your leaders who are dropping in on the White House, and to work seriously to lift the injustice against the believers," he said, accusing U.S. forces and their allies of intentionally killing women and children in Afghanistan.
But the message, bin Laden's fourth in three months, was also clearly aimed at his own al Qaeda followers, an attempt to re-assert leadership over his terror network, adds Orr.
"Al Qaeda in general, al Qaeda central, al Qaeda Osama bin laden, is facing some serious troubles in the Muslim world," said Islamic scholar Fawaz Gerges, of Sarah Lawrence College.
Gerges says there are growing signs bin Laden is losing his grip. Former militants and clerics have challenged bin Laden's authority.
His Saudi mentor, Sheikh Salman al-Oadah, recently condemned the 9/11 attacks and in a letter reprimanded bin Laden "for fostering a culture of violence and murder." And he asked, "How much blood has been spilled...in the name of al Qaeda?"
Al-Jazeera aired two brief excerpts of the audiotape, titled "Message to the European Peoples," which al Qaeda had announced Monday that it would release soon.
"What this tape shows, among other things, is that Osama Bin Laden is very much alive and well and paying very close attention to the news media," said CBS News consultant Jere Van Dyk.
Bin Laden issued four public statements earlier this year -- on Sept. 7, Sept. 11, Sept. 20 and Oct. 22. The Sept. 7 video was his first in three years and was issued to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
In 2004, bin Laden offered Europeans a truce if they stopped attacking Muslims, then later spoke of a truce with the United States. In both cases, al Qaeda later denounced the countries for not accepting its offers.
Bin Laden eluded coalition troops who invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, and is believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier.
This has been the deadliest year in Afghanistan since the invasion. More than 6,100 people have been killed -- including more than 800 civilians -- in fighting, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.
Al Qaeda has dramatically stepped up its messages, a pace seen as a sign of its increasing technical sophistication and the relative security felt by its leadership.
Bin Laden's message was the 89th this year by Al Qaeda's media wing, Al-Sahab, an average of one every three days, double the rate in 2006, according to IntelCenter, a U.S. counterterrorism group that monitors militant messaging.