Bin Laden Issues New Statement - Arabic Newspaper
LONDON (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden has issued a new statement urging Muslims to bury their differences and unite to fight the "external enemy," according to a report published in a leading London-based Arabic newspaper on Sunday.
The paper, Asharq Al-Awsat, said bin Laden had issued the statement in a letter via the Centre for Islamic Research and Studies in Pakistan. It said the letter was obtained by its journalist Mohamed el-Shaf'aie.
The letter, written in Arabic, was 26 pages long and signed by bin Laden, the paper said, adding that fundamentalist sources in London had told el-Shaf'aie that, although the letter was undated, it was written a few weeks ago.
"When will Muslims wake up from their long sleep and when will they distinguish between their friend and enemy," Asharq Al-Awsat quoted bin Laden as saying.
"When will they direct their own arrows that they use to fight each other to their external enemy that steals and loots its fortunes and its resources."
Asharq Al-Awsat is Saudi-owned and describes itself as an Arab independent newspaper. It is widely read and respected in the Middle East.
If the letter is genuine, it would mark the first missive of 2003 from the leader of the al Qaeda network, widely blamed for a series of atrocities across the world including the attacks of September 11, 2001, and last October's Bali nightclub bombing.
In November, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera television channel broadcast a recording of a voice which it said was bin Laden's.
U.S. intelligence officials analyzed the tape and said they were almost certain it was his voice and the tape was genuine, suggesting the Saudi dissident was still alive.
The tape praised attacks that took place as recently as October 28, 2002, and was considered the hardest evidence since December 2001 that bin Laden survived the U.S. bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
No one at Asharq Al-Awsat was available for comment.
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