LONDON – A British-based Islamic news agency said Thursday it has a new audio recording of Usama bin Laden in which he predicts he will die as "a martyr" this year in an attack against his enemies.
The Al-Ansaar news agency said that the 53-minute tape was allegedly recorded this month and acquired from a seller who advertised over the Internet.
Imran Khan, who runs Birmingham-based agency Al-Ansaar, told The Associated Press that he translated the tape, describing it as poetic with several verses from the Quran.
"In this final year I hurl myself and my steed with my soul at the enemy. Indeed on my demise I will become a martyr," the Al Qaeda leader purportedly says.
"I pray my demise isn't on a coffin bearing green mantles. I wish my demise to be in the eagle's belly," he continues.
Khan said experts contacted by Al-Ansaar believed the "eagle" referred to the United States and the quote revealed bin Laden's wish to end his life in a final act of terrorism.
In Washington, U.S. counterterrorism officials were reviewing a transcript of the tape, but said they could not verify it was an authentic message from the terror chief.
While the speaker mentions an apparent intention to die in the coming year and uses some rhetoric similar to bin Laden's, officials said they could not be certain of the speaker's identity without reviewing the actual recording. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Khan said the agency, which has released previous bin Laden tapes, had used the same sources to check the validity of the new tape. His claims could not be independently verified.
If authentic, the tape would be the latest in a series by bin Laden since the Sept. 11 attacks.
On Tuesday, the Al-Jazeera satellite station aired the purported voice of bin Laden telling his followers to help Saddam Hussein fight Americans, and U.S. officials claim the message backs Washington's charge that the Iraqi leader has ties to the Al Qaeda terror network.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to dismiss any Al Qaeda-Iraq link an interview to be published Thursday, saying it cannot be proved that the Al Qaeda leader is still alive.
"And his relations with Baghdad cannot be proved, either," Putin was quoted by the daily Le Telegramme as saying in the interview given Wednesday, the last day of a three-day state visit to France that ended in Bordeaux.
Khan said the new Ansaar tape claims a U.S.-led war on Iraq is a precursor to an invasion of Saudi Arabia.
The speaker also calls for individual attacks against "Americans and Jews" around the world as well as larger acts of terrorism, Khan said.
Khan said the speaker also bragged about how the Sept. 11 attacks took just a few people to create such damage.
Khan said the seller of the tape spoke with a Saudi accent but he declined to say when it was acquired. Khan said Al-Ansaar had held talks with several news organizations about selling the tape and it expected it to be released publicly shortly.
In May 2002, Al-Ansaar released a video of bin Laden which it claimed showed he had survived the U.S. war in Afghanistan. But Al-Jazeera said the tape was filmed before the war even began.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the department was unaware of the tape, saying it would need to hear the tape before considering a response.