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Bin Laden Videotape: The Real McCoy?

American officials say videotape showing Osama bin Laden had knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks is a smoking gun, but some in the Arab world aren't so sure


The controversial video

It was heralded by US administration officials as clear proof Osama bin Laden was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks.

But according to some in the Arab World, a grainy videotape of bin Laden gloating over the attacks with a Saudi sheik is not doing its job.

“This tape doesn’t appear very convincing,” Tanvir Ahmad, news editor of the English-language Dawn newspaper in Pakistan, told Deutsche Welle Online. “How could somebody make a video where so many people were present and how could they get Osama bin Laden to say all those things that could convict him?”

Ahmad’s comments echoed many in the Arab world, where Washington was hoping the tape would have its most drastic effect. The administration released the hour-long tape, which officials said was recovered from an abandoned home in Jalalabad, to the public Thursday night.

Since then, the BBC, CNN and the highly-influential Arab 24 hour news channel Al-Jazeera have been beaming it into living rooms across the world. Tape connects bin Laden to attacks

In it Osama bin Laden is seen sitting comfortably on pillows and carpets in a corner of a room officials believe is in a home near Kandahar.

The video, said to be filmed Nov. 9, shows a relaxed bin Laden talking and laughing in a barely audible voice about the attacks with an unnamed Saudi shiek.

In his conversation, translated by two independent Arab language specialists, he appears pleased at the effectiveness of the Sept. 11 attacks and gives indication that he knew about them before hand.

“We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy,” he tells the Sheik. “We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all.”

He confirmed what US officials had been suspecting all along, that Mohammad Atta, who studied in Hamburg, was the leader of the 19 hijackers. He also said many of the hijackers did not know the complete plan.

“The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation ... but they didn’t know anything about the operation, not one letter,” he says in the video.

He also recounts, like millions across the globe after Sept. 11, where he was at the time of the attacks. He said that the group of people he was with rejoiced after the first plane hit the World Trade Center.

“So, I said to them: be patient,” he said.

“Very, very twisted and sick”

The tape was greeted with anger and disgust in the United States, where many had been waiting in great anticipation after news of the tape's existence was leaked.

“This video will open a lot of eyes,” US Senator Ron Wyden said. “The world will see that you are dealing with a level of pathology . . . that is very, very twisted and sick."

“For those who see this tape, they’ll realize that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, he has no conscience and no soul, that he represents the worst of civilization,” President George Bush said. “Not the real McCoy”

But many in the Arab world weren’t convinced. Some responded with accusations that the hour-long videotape, filmed Nov. 9, was doctored in some way.

“The consensus is that this is not the real McCoy,” said Hassan Rassouli, editor of the Tehran Times in Iran, after a meeting with the paper’s editors.

Though he said he had no doubt that Osama bin Laden may be involved, the videotape was not the concrete evidence he was looking for.

“If this is going to be the only evidence, then there will be a few question marks,” Rassouli said.

“Public opinion in Iran is going to change, and it will have an adverse affect,” he said of the tape. “The public is not going to buy the tape.”

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  • Date 14.12.2001
  • Author Andreas Tzortzis
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/1UaF
  • Date 14.12.2001
  • Author Andreas Tzortzis
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/1UaF