Four days before the United States elects its next president, Osama bin Laden broke his lengthy silence, taking responsibility for the September 11 attacks in a recorded video message. Bin Laden also directly mentioned both President Bush and Senator Kerry in the tape, which was broadcast on the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera late Friday (October 29).
The al Qaeda leader, who appeared to be in good health, detailed his reasons for ordering the attacks on the United States, saying they had been in his mind for nearly two decades.
"We decided to destroy towers in America so they may taste what we have tasted," bin Laden said, referring to a U.S.-backed 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon that resulted in the destruction of two towers in Beirut. "When I looked at the towers that were destroyed in Lebanon, it occurred to me that we should do the same to them. And the towers in America should have fallen down in order for Americans to feel what we have felt," he explained.
Though the tape was released only days before Americans head to the polls, bin Laden said the outcome of the election would have little impact on the security of America. Citing what he called the longstanding "injustice and inflexibility of the American-Israeli alliance toward our people in Palestine and Lebanon," the al Qaeda leader said it would be up to the American people to change the course of the country's foreign policy. "Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al Qaeda, your security is in your own hands," he said.
In the minute-long broadcast, bin Laden also accused President Bush of deceiving people about the terrorist group's motives for orchestrating the attacks. "If Bush says we hate freedom, let him tell us why we didn't attack Sweden, for example."
President Bush, preparing to board Air Force One for Ohio, told reporters, "Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country. I'm sure Senator Kerry agrees with this. ... We are at war with these terrorists, and I am confident we will prevail."
Kerry, who was in Florida, echoed the president's sentiments, saying he would "stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes, period."
Bin Laden's last video message came in September 2003.