A man claiming to be a spokesman for the al Qaeda network told an Arab television station on Wednesday Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar were alive and well but gave no clue as to their whereabouts.
The man, identified by the alias Abu Laith al-Libi, told the Middle East Broadcasting Center by telephone that bin Laden, Washington's main suspect in the September 11 attacks on the United States, and his top lieutenants were in good health.
"Bin Laden, may God keep him safe, Dr. Ayman Zawahri and Sheikh Sulaiman bu Ghaith, all of them are in good health," said the man, whose alias indicates he is of a Libyan origin.
"And we, the fighters of the holy war, in general are hoping to enter the next phase, which we in the military call the gang war phase," he said.
"We are attempting to expand the frontlines...it will be a war of killings, a war (against) businesses, which will hit the enemy where he does not expect," he said.
Libi, whose claim to be an al Qaeda spokesman could not be independently confirmed, said Mullah Omar, who as leader of Afghanistan's now ousted Taliban rulers provided shelter to bin Laden and al Qaeda, was "reorganizing his soldiers."
Earlier on Tuesday an Algerian Arabic-language newspaper El Youm quoted al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman bu Ghaith as saying the group would soon strike U.S. targets in America and abroad.
"Our military and intelligence networks are assessing and monitoring new U.S. targets that we will strike in a period of time which is not long," bu Ghaith said.
Bu Ghaith told El Youm that Washington's war on terrorism since September 11 had not affected al Qaeda's military, intelligence, economic and information infrastructures and reiterated that bin Laden was going about his work.
A spokesman for international forces hunting al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan has dismissed as "wishful thinking" such claims that the network is still virtually intact.
(China Daily July 10, 2002)