CAIRO, Egypt – Osama bin Laden will appear for the second time in a week in a new video to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, presenting the last will and testament of one of the suicide hijackers, al-Qaida announced Monday.
Each year, al-Qaida has released videos of last statements by hijackers on the anniversary of the 2001 attacks, using the occasion to rally its sympathizers.
But this year’s releases underline how bin Laden is re-emerging to tout his leadership – whether symbolic or effective – of the jihad movement. While past anniversary videos featured old footage of bin Laden, the latest appears likely to include a newly made speech.
Bin Laden had not appeared for nearly three years until a new video was released over the weekend.
In that video, he addressed the American people, telling them the war in Iraq is a failure and taking on a new anti-globalization rhetoric.
He urged Americans to abandon capitalism and democracy and embrace Islam.
Al-Qaida’s media arm, Al-Sahab, announced the impending second video Monday with an advertising banner posted on an Islamic militant Web forum where the group often posts its messages.
The video was likely to be released within 24 hours to coincide with Sept. 11, said Ben Venzke, head of IntelCenter, a U.S. group that monitors and analyzes militant messages.
“Coming soon, God willing, from the testaments of the martyrs of the New York and Washington attacks: The testament of the martyr Abu Musab Waleed al-Shehri, presented by Sheik Osama bin Laden, God preserve him,” the banner read.
Al-Shehri was one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center’s north tower.
The Web banner included a still image of bin Laden from the upcoming video.
Shown raising his finger, he wears the same dyed-black beard and the same clothes – white robe and round cap and beige cloak – that he had on in the video posted on the Web on Saturday.
Saturday’s video was probably filmed in early August and it is likely “that the (upcoming video) shows bin Laden in the same setting,” Venzke said.
Al-Qaida’s media operations have become increasingly sophisticated, as have the anniversary videos.
Last year, al-Qaida released a 55-minute documentary talking about the planning of the attacks that hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The video included old but previously unreleased footage showing bin Laden strolling through an Afghan training camp where the attacks were apparently planned and chatting with top al-Qaida lieutenants.
Among them were Mohammed Atef, who was later killed in a November 2001 U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan, and Ramzi Binalshibh, who was captured in 2002.
The documentary also included the last testimonies of two Sept. 11 hijackers, Hamza al-Ghamdi and Wail al-Shehri, brother of Waleed al-Shehri. The video was accompanied by another with an address by bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.
On Sunday, President Bush’s homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, sought to play down bin Laden’s new appearance in a video and questioned his importance, calling the al-Qaida leader “virtually impotent.”
But terrorism experts say al-Qaida’s core leadership is regrouping in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. The latest National Intelligence Estimate says the network is growing in strength, intensifying its effort to put operatives in the U.S. and plot new attacks.
Bin Laden’s video Saturday was his first message in over a year – since a July 1, 2006, audiotape.
In the video, bin Laden tells the American people his fighters are duty bound to “escalate the fighting and killing against you” in Iraq.
But he adds that there is a solution to the bloodshed: “I invite you to embrace Islam.”