Born to live free: Osama
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Born to live free: Osama

Bin Laden said this in a tape that appeared to be a complete version of one that was first broadcast in January.

india Updated: Feb 20, 2006 12:21 IST

Osama bin Laden promised never to be captured alive and declared the US had resorted to the same "barbaric" tactics used by Saddam Hussein.

Ina 11 minute 26 second audiotape, the Al-Qaeda leader said, "I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death, I don't want to die humiliated or deceived."

The tape appeared to be a complete version of one that was first broadcast on January 19 on Al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite channel, in which bin Laden offered the United States a long-term truce but also said his Al-Qaeda terror network would soon launch a fresh attack on American soil.

"I have sworn to only live free. Even if I find bitter the taste of death, I don't want to die humiliated or deceived," bin Laden said, in the 11 minute 26 second tape.

In drawing the comparison to American military behaviour in Iraq to that of Saddam, the speaker said:

"The jihad is continuing with strength, for Allah be all the credit, despite all the barbarity, the repressive steps taken by the American Army and its agents, to the extent that there is no longer any mentionable difference between this criminality and the criminality of Saddam."

By using that language to describe Saddam, bin Laden appeared to deny assertions by the Bush administration that the former Iraqi leader had ties to Al-Qaeda -- ties that were given as one rationale for invading Iraq.

Bin Laden also denied Bush administration assertions that it was better to fight terrorists in Iraq than on US soil.

"The war against America and its allies has not remained confined to Iraq as he (Bush) claims, but rather Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified forces," the speaker said.

"What's more, the Mujahideen, by the grace of Allah, have been able to penetrate time after time all the security procedures undertaken by the oppressive countries of the alliance as evidence by what you have seen, in terms of bombings in the capital of the most important European states."

The tape's release in January came days after a US airstrike in Pakistan that was targeting bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, and reportedly killed four leading Al-Qaeda figures, including possibly al-Zawahri's son-in-law. There was no mention of the attack on the segments that were broadcast.

In the full tape that was posted on a militant website on Monday, bin Laden engaged in renewed propaganda, mocking US President George Bush's aircraft carrier declaration in April 2003 that major conflict in Iraq had ended.

"The Pentagon's figures indicate an increase in the number of your killed and injured in addition to the massive material losses, not to mention the collapse of troop morale and the increase of the suicide rates among them," the bin Laden voice said.

Speaking directly to the American people, the speaker said: "You can rescue whatever you can from this hell. The solution is in your hands, if their (US troops') situation matters to you at all."

It was the first tape from the Al-Qaeda leader in more than a year -- the longest period without a message since the September 11 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.

The CIA last month authenticated the voice on the initial recording as that of bin Laden, an agency official said at the time.

The Al-Qaeda leader is believed to be hiding in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The last audiotape purported to be from bin Laden was broadcast in December 2004 by Al-Jazeera. In that recording, he endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of Iraqi elections.

Previously, the longest period without a message from the Al-Qaeda leader was from December 2001 to November 2002. He issued numerous tapes in 2003 and 2004, calling for Muslims to attack US interests and threatening attacks against the United States.

Bin Laden appeared in a video released October 2004, just ahead of US presidential elections, saying the United States could avoid another September 11 attack if it stops threatening the security of Muslims.

In an April 15, 2004, audiotape, he vowed revenge against the United States for Israel's assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin -- and at the same time offered a truce to European countries.

Since December 2004, al-Zawahri, the Al-Qaeda Number 2, has issued a number of video and audiotapes, including one claiming responsibility for the July London subway bombings, which he said came after Europe rejected the terms of bin Laden's truce offer.

First Published: Feb 20, 2006 08:58 IST