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Al Qaeda: Bin Laden Still Alive

Usama bin Laden is alive and well and ready to strike American targets again, bin Laden's spokesman said on an audiotape aired Sunday.

"I want to assure Muslims that Sheik Usama bin Laden ... is in good and prosperous health and all what is being rumored about his illness and injury in Tora Bora has no truth,'' according to excerpts aired Sunday.

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the Kuwaiti-born spokesman for bin Laden, said that bin Laden's second-in-command was alive, and that the Saudi terrorist's Al Qaeda network was responsible for a deadly April fire at a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia. 

He also said Al Qaeda was simply waiting for the right time and place for its next attack, and promised a public address from bin Laden soon.

Al Qaeda still has "the capability to threaten America and execute such threats," Abu Gaith said in Arabic. "The few coming days and months will prove to the whole world, Allah willing, the truth of what we are saying."

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite television network, which has in the past aired videotaped messages of bin Laden and his top lieutenants, said that it received the recorded audiotaped message from Abu Ghaith. It was not immediately clear when the tape was made or how Al-Jazeera obtained it. No comment from the station was available.

There was no way to independently confirm the authenticity of the remarks. The Bush administration has said that it does not know whether bin Laden is alive or dead. There was no immediate reaction Saturday from the White House.

The tape, which was monitored in Beirut, Lebanon, appeared recent. Referring to recent U.S. warnings about imminent Al Qaeda threats, Abu Ghaith said the group will choose the right time, place and method.

The warnings were "a cover-up for the ugly face of the onslaught by the Democratic Party against the Republican Party after the American president announced he was aware of the Sept. 11 operations and because of the economic problems the American government was suffering from," Abu Ghaith said.

"I say 'Yes' to what American officials are saying ... that we are going to carry out attacks on America," he said.

Al Qaeda, he said, "is now monitoring, detecting and observing new American targets other than the targets previously monitored, which we will strike at in a period that is not long."

He called the Sept. 11 attacks a "great historic victory that broke the backs of the Americans, the strongest power in this world," and referred to previous successes against the Americans: The 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 strike against the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen.

Abu Ghaith also claimed Al Qaeda was behind the fuel tanker explosion on the Tunisian island of Jerba, in which 15 people died, 10 of them Germans.

"This is an operation that was carried out by the Al Qaeda organization (by a man) ... who could not see his brothers in Palestine being killed, slaughtered, their blood spilled and honor violated and he looks around him and sees Jews in the city of Jerba wandering and enjoying and practicing their rituals at will," Abu Ghaith said.

The audiotape included Abu Ghaith denying reports that Ayman Al-Zawahri, bin Laden's No. 2 man in Al Qaeda, was hurt in Tora Bora, an eastern Afghanistan mountain region where U.S. and allied forces pursued remnants of Al Qaeda and former rulers of Afghanistan, the Taliban.

"I can say that 98 percent of the leadership of Al Qaeda are safe and are running their affairs perfectly," the voice on the recording said.

An Al-Jazeera presenter quoted Abu Ghaith as saying that fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who had protected bin Laden, is also alive.

Similar remarks, purportedly made by Abu Ghaith, appeared days earlier on an Arabic-language Web site that issues daily updates on the war in Afghanistan. The tape and the Web site had some of the same quotes and statements.

Abu Ghaith, a former teacher and mosque preacher who was stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship after the Sept. 11 attacks, also said Al Qaeda had been prepared for the U.S. campaign and that its military, security, economic and media network was unaffected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.