A new Osama bin Laden tape was released today by as Sahab, al Qaeda's production company, addressing Europe with a conciliatory tone but a clear message to get out of Afghanistan or expect retaliation.
"Justice demands that you lift your oppression and withdraw your troops, and reason demands that you don't hurt your neighbors," the alleged voice of bin Laden says on the tape.
Bin Laden sends a warning of retaliation against Europe for the violence being committed by the international coalition forces in Afghanistan: "If today Europe is suffering the travails of the economic crisis…then how do you think you will fare after America pulls out, Allah permitting, for us to retaliate from the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed?"
Ben Venske of the Washington-based terrorism watchdog group IntelCenter said the tape contains language considered "a valid indicator of an upcoming attack."
Bin Laden chastises America for its military presence in Afghanistan and accuses US troops of intentional bombing civilians: "An intelligent man doesn't waste his money and sons for a gang of criminals in Washington and it is a shameful thing for a person to be in a coalition whose supreme commander has no regard for human life and who intentionally bombs villagers from the air."
Bin Laden also says he witnessed the bombing of civilians and the empty sympathy that America shows when troops realize they have killed civilian children: "Then the Humvees come along, and when it becomes clear to them that those killed were children American generosity gushes forth in all its abundance and they give the victims' relatives $100 for every child killed."
Experts say that al Qaeda is becoming increasingly savvy with regards to public relations, and in this tape is appealing to the humanistic side of Europe: "Bin Laden is saying 'We're really the humane people here, and here are the reasons why,'" said Brad Garrett, former FBI who dealt with terrorism-related cased for years.
"They watch the news and they have PR people and they have strategy meetings for how to promote their product and it is a product—and they get people to give them money. The biggest mistake is to write them off – just because they're fanatic doesn't mean they're dumb," said Garrett.
Authorities Believe Osama Bin Laden Still Alive
Former White House terrorism czar and ABC News Consultant Richard Clarke said authorities believe bin Laden is still alive, but that this tape does not narrow down his location.
The roughly five-minute long video, which is addressed to Europe as a whole, follows three German language videos released this week, leaving terrorism experts worried that an attack could be imminent.
The message is audio only, with no new photos or video of bin Laden. A digitally stylized image of him with English subtitles is superimposed. There is also a version with German subtitles.
The German language videos released this week were from Bekkay Harrach, a German of Moroccan background believed to have lived for years in Bonn. Authorities say he could now be in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.
Harrach warned of an attack on Germany if a party that supports a continued German presence in Afghanistan wins. The elections are to be held on Monday, September 27.
Counter-terrorism experts say they are highly concerned by the specificity of Harrach's message: "One would assume that they would not want to be shown to be bluffing and so, may actually have something planned," said Clarke.
Police in Stuttgart arrested a 25-year-old Turkish man Thursday for re-launching Harrach's on the Internet. The suspect had been under surveillance for previously supporting Islamist causes, and "has not created the video himself and it is not yet clear where he obtained the video from," police spokesman Stefan Kalbach said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said security authorities were prepared to protect the country. The US State Department issued a Travel Alert on Wednesday cautioning Americans to be careful in coming weeks in Germany.
"Americans are advised to monitor news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places or choosing hotels, restaurants and entertainment and recreation venues" in Germany, the alert said. It expires on November 11.