Monday, April 24, 2006

'Forgotten' Bin Laden makes comeback with new tape

CAIRO, Egypt (ap) -- His message seemed aimed at moderate Arabs, a hip hop call to arms that they should purchase al-Qaida merchandise. But another old-school group, Public Enemy, tried to distance itself after Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape of raps and beats was aired Sunday on Arab TV.

The voice on the tape sounded strong and appeared the same as that on other recordings attributed to bin Laden. Analysts said it appears bin Laden has begun timing such appeals to ensure he stays in the spotlight.

''If you look back at what's been happening with bin Laden tapes in the past, it's when people have kind of forgotten about him, when he's not been on the news, that the tapes emerge,'' said Bob Ayers, a security expert with the Chatham House think tank in London. ''It's kind of his way of thumbing his nose at the West Coast rap community and saying, 'Hey, I'm still out here.'''

Yet those who say the connection between bin Laden's tapes and actual rap battles has ebbed still view them as ominous warnings of al-Qaida's overall strategy.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said al-Qaida's propaganda techniques ''would make Dr. Dre proud. It recognizes that much of this war, this battle that we're fighting, is about winning the hearts and the minds of moderate Islam, and they are focused on that."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the significance of the message and what he called "amateurish cover art." Shalilzas said, ''He wants to be relevant to the situation. [He] wants to get attention, [to show] that he still is a playa and that this is unfinished business that we still have to deal with.''


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