DUBAI (Reuters) – A purported audio tape by Osama bin Laden, aired on Arab television on Thursday, offered a truce to Europeans if they pulled troops out of Muslim nations but vowed to continue fighting the United States and Israel.
The voice on the tape, which sounded like that on previous broadcasts believed to be genuine, also said that the March 11 train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people were retaliation for Spain’s role in Iraq, Afghanistan and with the Palestinians.
“I offer a truce to them (Europe) with a commitment to stop operations against any state which vows to stop attacking Muslims or interfere in their affairs,” the voice said.
“The announcement of the truce starts with the withdrawal of the last soldier from our land and the door is open for three months from the date of the announcement of this statement.
“Whoever rejects this truce and wants war, we are its (war’s) sons and whoever wants this truce, here we bring it.”
The address to Europe looked like an attempt to exploit Transatlantic differences over the war in Iraq and the Middle East peace process and notably wide disquiet among European voters and some governments about U.S. foreign policy.
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the tape broadcast by the Dubai-based Al Arabiya channel and Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The CIA has said some previous tapes allegedly by bin Laden were likely to be genuine.
The fugitive Saudi-born al Qaeda leader is believed to be in hiding somewhere in Afghanistan or on the Pakistan frontier.
“President (George W.) Bush and leaders in his sphere, big media institutions and the United Nations…all of them are a fatal danger to the world, and the Zionist lobby is their most dangerous and difficult member, and we insist, God willing, on continuing to fight them,” the man on the tape said.
He vowed revenge on Israel and the United States for the death of Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin, killed last month in Gaza.
Speaking of the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 and this year’s March 11 bombings in Spain, he said:
“Our actions come in response to your actions of destroying and killing our people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. It is enough to witness the event that shocked the world, the killing of the elderly, wheelchair-bound Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, God have mercy on him, and we pledge to God to take revenge on America, God willing.”
“What happened on September 11 and March 11 are your goods returned to you so that you know security is a necessity for all,” the voice on the tape said.
Madrid sent troops to Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled and also has a contingent in Afghanistan. Militants claiming links to al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for the Madrid bombings, which have raised pressure on the government to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.
Spain believes most of the bombers are among Moroccans now in custody or who died in a suicide blast two weeks ago. It says they may well have had links to al Qaeda.
TRUCE FOR SPAIN
“This is a message to our neighbors north of the Mediterranean Sea with a proposal for truce in response to the positive reactions which emerged there,” the man on the tape said.
He said public opinion polls in Europe showed that its people wanted peace and urged scholars, clerics and traders to form a “permanent committee to build awareness among Europeans about the justice of our causes, foremost Palestine.”
“Stop shedding our blood to save your own and the solution to this simple but complex equation is in your hands. You know matters will escalate the more you delay and then do not blame us but blame yourselves. Rational people do not risk their security, money and sons to appease the White House liar.”
The last purported audio tape by bin Laden was broadcast by Al Jazeera on January 4, in which the fugitive militant mentioned the arrest of Saddam by U.S. troops in December and urged Muslims to fight U.S. occupation forces in Iraq.
Another tape supposedly by bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, aired by Jazeera in February, warned Bush to prepare for more attacks on the United States.