In an attempt to win a public relations war over terrorists, the Pentagon on Thursday released a much-awaited videotape showing that exiled Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden talked with several men about the September 11 attacks on the United States shortly after the attacks took place.
"The brothers who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation and we asked each of them to go to America, but they didn't know anything about the operation, not even one letter," bin Laden said, according to transcripts translated by the Pentagon.
"But they were trained and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there and just before they boarded the plane," bin Laden added.
The tape, approximately one hour long, was reportedly found in a house in Jalalabad as the anti-Taliban forces took over the eastern Afghan city recently.
It took several days for the Bush administration to make a decision on whether to make public the tape and in the meantime, provide an English translation.
According to the tape, bin Laden was talking about the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in a way that he knew the plan in advance.
"We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower," said bin Laden, who was accused as the prime suspect masterminding the September 11 attacks.
"We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all," he was quoted as saying.
The authenticity of the tape, which the US government treats as a "smoking gun" to hold bin Laden as the mastermind of the September 11 tragedy, can not be independently confirmed.
(People's Daily December 14, 2001)