Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden was shown in an undated videotape excerpt aired on Monday, sitting silently alongside a top aide who praised the September 11 attacks on America as a "great victory."
Qatar-based satellite television network al-Jazeera broadcast the footage, which also included what it said was the videotaped will of one of the suspected September 11 hijackers. A station official said the tape was "old" but had apparently not been broadcast before.
In Washington, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon also had obtained what appeared to be an old videotape with bin Laden on it, but that it was not clear whether it was the same tape aired by al-Jazeera.
He said he still did not know whether bin Laden, leader of the al Qaeda network and blamed by the United States for suicide airliner attacks on New York and Washington that killed about 3,000 people, was alive or dead.
In the excerpt broadcast by al-Jazeera on Monday, bin Laden is seen sitting silently on a patch of grass next to his aide Ayman al-Zawahri, who said: "Those 19 brothers who went out and sacrificed their lives for God were rewarded with this victory.
"This is a great victory, which was in fact achieved by the will of God Almighty and not because of our skill or superiority," he said.
Zawahri's sermon-like style made it unclear whether he was admitting to al Qaeda's involvement in the September attacks or referring to the attacks as a victory for Muslims in general.
FOOTAGE OF HIJACKER?
The videotape also included footage of Ahmed Alghamdi, a Saudi believed to be one of the 19 hijackers who piloted airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"It is high time that we killed Americans in their home," said Alghamdi, bearded and wearing a chequered Arab headdress. "Lord I regard myself as a martyr for you, so accept me as such."
An official at Jazeera said the full tape would be aired on Thursday.
The station said in a statement that Alghamdi's videotaped message was recorded in the Afghan city of Kandahar six months before the September 11 attacks, according to information on the film.
Rumsfeld said in response to questions at a news conference that he had watched parts of a bin Laden tape on Sunday, but refused to say how the United States had obtained it.
"I have not seen al Jazeera's tape," he told reporters. "I have seen a tape and whether it's the same one, I'm not sure. The one I saw was in Arabic."
The impression of Arabic speakers who listened, the secretary said, was that the tape was to "reinforce" bin Laden's ties to September 11.
"I was advised that what I was watching very likely was using a patchwork of clips from previous periods along with some dialogue of more recent periods -- rather commentary from more recent periods," he added.
"At least thus far the impression is that it is not new ... it does not reflect anything of UBL (Osama bin Laden) from recent periods."
(China Daily April 16, 2002)