DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – New images of Usama bin Laden appeared Friday on an Arab television station, showing the terror suspect somber and composed amid a celebration by his followers at an arid mountain base.
The station, Al-Jazeera, said it believed the video was made recently. The Qatar station did not say whether the footage was shot before or after the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, or how the station obtained it.
The video has bin Laden standing side by side with his top lieutenant, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri. Al-Jazeera said the footage was believed to record a celebration of a union of bin Laden's Al Qaeda network and al-Zawahri's Egyptian Jihad group.
The gathering, at an Al Qaeda camp with dry, rugged mountains in the background, also marked the graduation of a group of newly trained fighters into Al Qaeda, Al-Jazeera said. Singing and the beating of drums ring out in the video.
A handful of men armed with AK-47s, their faces covered, stand near the two leaders. In the background is a stark encampment with three or four squat cement huts and at least a half-dozen sand-colored tents.
Bin Laden, dressed in white-and-beige robes and an Afghan-style dark-colored turban, glances at times at the camera, unsmiling.
There was no word of any statement from him accompanying the video.
Al-Zawahri's group, Jihad, is linked to the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, 20 years ago Saturday.
Jihad and three other militant Islamic groups joined with Al Qaeda in 1998 to form bin Laden's new International Front for Fighting Jews and Crusades.
The alliance with Al Qaeda led to a split within Jihad, some of whose members feared taking on the United States.
It was not clear what union the video commemorated, or when the union would have taken place. Beyond the 1998 alliance, there has been no known announcement of any merger. It was also not clear if it could have been a record of an anniversary of a union.
Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network is the prime target of the United States as Washington builds an international coalition in response to the terror attacks on New York and Washington. The United States says bin Laden instigated the attacks.
Al-Jazeera, a station in the peninsula Arab nation of Qatar, has long been one of the first sources of tapes and statements from bin Laden. Bin Laden often grants the station interviews and gives it videos when he has a message to relay to the world.
The exiled Saudi dissident was last seen in public in February, at his son's wedding in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
Then, bin Laden praised the October suicide-bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 American sailors. "The pieces of the bodies of infidels were flying like dust particles. If you had seen it with your own eyes ... your heart would have been filled with joy," he said.