osama bin laden 298 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Osama bin Laden said Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted in the US for the September 11 attacks, had nothing to do with the al Qaida operation, according to an audiotape released on the Internet Tuesday.
"He had no connection at all with September 11," the voice on the tape said.
"I am the one in charge of the 19 brothers and I never assigned brother Zacarias to be with them in that mission," the voice said, referring to the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001.
Bin Laden said Moussaoui's confession that he helped plan the attacks was "void," calling it the result of "pressures exercised against him during four and a half years" in US prison.
Two US counter terrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said US intelligence is aware of the bin Laden message. One of the officials said there is no reason to doubt its authenticity.
That official said the message is part of bin Laden's continuing effort to demonstrate he is a relevant extremist leader, who is knowledgeable of current events. The official said the message was made for propaganda purposes, and it does not contain any threats.
The audio message, which is less than five minutes long, was transmitted with a still photo of bin Laden.
Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Frenchman and admitted al Qaida member, was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month after a jury ruled that he was responsible for at least one death on September 11.
The tape is the third by bin Laden this year. In a tape aired on Arab television in March, he denounced the United States and Europe for cutting off funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, accusing them of leading a "Zionist" war on Islam, and urged followers to fight any UN peacekeeping force in Sudan.
In January, bin Laden said in an audiotape that al Qaida was preparing new attacks in the United States but offered a truce - though his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahri later issued a video saying Washington had refused to take the offer.
The January message was bin Laden's first in over a year, his longest period of silence since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
His deputy al-Zawahri releases messages more frequently, appearing in videotapes, while bin Laden has not appeared in a video since October 2004.