Bin Laden aide denies setbacks

Associated Press

CAIRO, Egypt — The United States is lying when it claims to have smashed the al-Qaida terror network and to have broken the back of Taliban forces in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden’s deputy said Friday.

"(President) Bush lies to his people when he claims to have destroyed the al-Qaida group and broken the ranks of the Taliban. The whole world laughs at his lies," Ayman el-Zawahri said in a television broadcast.

In Bush’s address to the nation Thursday night, he did not claim al-Qaida had been destroyed, but said the U.S.-led bombing campaign since Oct. 7 had made its operations and those of the Taliban regime much more difficult.

In a taped broadcast on the Qatari satellite channel Al-Jazeera, el-Zawahri said that in a month of airstrikes on Afghanistan, the United States had killed 1,600 civilians, "elderly people, women and innocent children" and had displaced millions of others.

The United States denies targeting civilians and says Taliban claims are inflated for propaganda purposes.

"Let America mobilize as much as it can, and let it lie as much as it wants. The whole world will know after the upcoming strikes, God willing, who is the liar and who is telling the truth," he said.

It was not clear if by "upcoming strikes" he meant attacks by the United States or by al-Qaida.

Washington accuses al-Qaida and bin Laden of instigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

El-Zawahri, an Egyptian, spoke sitting against a brown background with an assault rifle propped up next to his right shoulder. Wearing white robes and turban, with a gray outer garment, he read from a statement in his hands and repeatedly glanced at the camera.

An Al-Jazeera producer, Dana Suyyagh, said the tape was delivered to the network’s office in the Afghan capital Friday and transmitted to its headquarters in Doha, Qatar.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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