K U W A I T, June 19, 2001 -- Islamic militant Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan-based group boasts in a recruitment videotape that its followers bombed the USS Cole in Yemen's Aden harbor last year.
The video, circulating among Muslim militants and viewed here Tuesday, would represent the clearest link yet between Osama Bin Laden and the Oct. 12 attack that killed 17 Americans sailors andwounded 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 aprime 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 inAfghanistan.
Video From ‘The Clouds’
The Associated Press viewed the tape at the offices of Al-Rai Al-Amm, a Kuwaiti daily newspaper that published a story about the video Tuesday. The newspaper would not say how or where it acquiredthe video.
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."
Call to Arms
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 AmericanDestroyer 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.
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 — andwith a request for whoever watches it to distribute it.