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Context of 'September 16, 2001: Bin Laden, in Statement Read on Al Jazeera, Denies Involvement in 9/11 Attacks'

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Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi multimillionaire considered by the United States to be the prime suspect for the 9/11 attacks, issues a statement through the Arabic satellite television channel Al Jazeera, in which he denies responsibility for those attacks. [CNN, 9/17/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] In the statement, which is read out by an Al Jazeera announcer, bin Laden says: “The US government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it. I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons. I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations.” The statement is signed “Sheik Osama bin Laden.” [Associated Press, 9/16/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001] President Bush dismisses bin Laden’s denial. Asked whether he believes it, Bush responds: “No question he is the prime suspect. No question about that.” [White House, 9/16/2001; Baltimore Sun, 9/17/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney says he has “no doubt that [bin Laden] and his organization played a significant role” in the 9/11 attacks. [NBC, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] On this day, bin Laden also faxes a statement to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency, in which he denies responsibility for the 9/11 attacks (see September 16, 2001). [Guardian, 9/17/2001] Previously, on September 12, he denied any involvement, according to a close aide of his (see September 12, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/13/2001] On September 13, Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban said bin Laden told them he had played no role in the attacks (see September 13, 2001). [Reuters, 9/13/2001] But in mid-December 2001, the Pentagon will release a video which apparently shows bin Laden indicating his complicity (see Mid-November 2001). [BBC, 12/14/2001; Fox News, 12/14/2001] However, there will be questions about the authenticity of this film (see December 13, 2001). [Guardian, 12/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Al Jazeera, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Osama bin Laden admits “inciting” the 9/11 attacks in a controversial interview by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV station. The interview is conducted by Tayseer Allouni, Al Jazeera’s Kabul correspondent. Allouni had discussed a possible interview of bin Laden with al-Qaeda about a week previously (see Mid-October 2001), but nothing further had been said and Allouni assumed the interview would not be conducted.
Taken Blindfolded to Bin Laden - However, he is contacted by al-Qaeda representatives, who tell him they will take him to a story. He is blindfolded and driven around in circles outside Kabul for some time, until the car stops, the blindfold is taken off, and he finds himself in an unknown place, face-to-face with bin Laden. The al-Qaeda leader is wearing camouflage fatigues and has a sub-machine gun close by; there are other armed men present. Allouni is told he cannot use his own questions, but will ask a set of questions prepared by al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden 'Ambiguously' Discusses Responsibility for 9/11 - The interview lasts for over an hour and covers several topics. On the key question of responsibility for 9/11, author Hugh Miles will point out that bin Laden speaks “ambiguously, seeming first to deny, then confirm, his involvement in the attacks.” When asked about US allegations of his responsibility, bin Laden answers: “America has made many accusations against us and many other Muslims around the world. Its charge that we are carrying out acts of terrorism is unwarranted.” However, a few seconds later he adds, “If inciting people to do that is terrorism, and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we were terrorists.” He then says: “We kill the kings of the infidels, kings of the crusaders, and civilian infidels in exchange for those of our children they kill. This is permissible in Islamic law and logically.” Allouni interrupts him and asks, “They kill our innocents, so we kill their innocents?” The reply is, “So we kill their innocents.” Bin Laden also gives a vague non-answer to a question about his responsibility for the recent anthrax attacks in the US: “These diseases are a punishment from God and a response to oppressed mothers’ prayers in Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, and everywhere.”
Interview Not Broadcast - Al Jazeera decides not to broadcast the interview. Its media relations manager, Jihad Ballout, will later say the decision is taken because the questions Allouni was forced to ask came from bin Laden, and because “bin Laden was using Al Jazeera to give out a very edited and sanitized statement to his people. It was a message, a pure message.” Neither does Al Jazeera inform CNN of the interview. However, western intelligence services will obtain it (see Before November 11, 2001) and it will eventually be broadcast on CNN in early 2002 (see January 31, 2002). [CNN, 2/5/2002; Miles, 2005, pp. 177-179, 182]

Entity Tags: Jihad Ballout, Al-Qaeda, Al Jazeera, Tayseer Allouni, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The top picture is of Waleed Alshehri. The bottom two pictures are said to be of hijackers planning the 9/11 attacks, but no faces are shown to help confirm this.The top picture is of Waleed Alshehri. The bottom two pictures are said to be of hijackers planning the 9/11 attacks, but no faces are shown to help confirm this. [Source: Spiegel TV]Al Jazeera television broadcasts video footage in which bin Laden appears to take credit for the 9/11 attacks. Some of the video footage shows some 9/11 hijackers, including Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, Waleed Alshehri, and Wail Alshehri, talking with each other and studying maps and flight manuals. At one point, hands are shown over maps of the US and the Pentagon, but no faces are shown as this happens. One section of the video is hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari reading last will and testament in which he praises Osama bin Laden (see September 9, 2002). Al Jazeera says the video was filmed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in early 2001. Additional footage has bin Laden hailing the hijackers as heroes, but there is no video footage of him saying this, only his voice over still photographs of the hijackers. The Financial Times will report, “But analysts cited the crude editing of the tapes and the timing of the broadcasts as reasons to be suspicious about their authenticity. The skepticism was deepened by Al Jazeera’s silence yesterday about how it had obtained the videos.” [Financial Times, 9/11/2002] Al Jazeera shows an interview of al-Qaeda leaders Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) around the same time (see September 8-11, 2002). Yosri Fouda, who allegedly was the one who interviewed bin al-Shibh and KSM several months earlier, will later claim that parts of the documentary were narrated by bin al-Shibh, although the voice is not identified as his. And bin al-Shibh was working on the documentary when the interview took place. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 158-159]

Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Waleed Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Osama bin Laden, Wail Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Top: Ramzi bin al-Shibh (left) shaking hands with Mohammed Atef (right). Bottom: Bin al-Shibh (left) with bin Laden (right).Top: Ramzi bin al-Shibh (left) shaking hands with Mohammed Atef (right). Bottom: Bin al-Shibh (left) with bin Laden (right). [Source: Al Jazeera]Al Jazeera television broadcasts previously unseen footage of Osama bin Laden meeting with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was a roommate and close associate of some of the 9/11 hijackers. The footage is said to have been released by al-Qaeda’s production company, As-Sahab, in time for the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Bin al-Shibh is seen sitting and talking with bin Laden and al-Qaeda military leader Mohammed Atef. Atef was killed in November 2001 (see November 15, 2001), so the footage has to be from before then, but it is unknown if it was filmed before or after 9/11. Bin Laden is also shown strolling through an Afghanistan training camp meeting followers. Al Jazeera says some of these followers include some of the 9/11 hijackers, but their faces are not seen so it is unclear if this is the case. But bin Laden addresses the camera at one point and says of his followers preparing for missions, “I ask you to pray for them and to ask God to make them successful, aim their shots well, set their feet strong, and strengthen their hearts.” The video also includes the last testaments of two of the hijackers, Wail Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi filmed in Kandahar, Afghanistan in March 2001 (see September 7, 2006 and (December 2000-March 2001)). [Associated Press, 9/7/2006; CNN, 9/8/2006]

Entity Tags: Wail Alshehri, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Hamza Alghamdi, Mohammed Atef, As-Sahab, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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