WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The U.S. government has obtained a copy of a purported new videotape of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and is studying it, U.S. officials said on Friday. “We can confirm that the U.S. government has the video and it is being analyzed,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
An Islamist Web site said earlier on Friday it would soon show a new video of bin Laden — the first for nearly three years — to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The Web site published a still photograph apparently from the video, which showed bin Laden looking older than in previously available pictures. Al Jazeera television said the footage, produced by al Qaeda’s media arm, was likely to be shown within 72 hours.
A U.S. intelligence official said of the tape, “we’re analyzing it. We need to take a look at it to see whether it’s old or new, and we’re doing it very quickly.”
Bin Laden was last seen in a video statement on the eve of the November 2004 U.S. presidential election. Since then, he has issued several audio messages, the last in July 2006 when he vowed al Qaeda would fight the United States across the world.
Some intelligence officials and security analysts suspect bin Laden has limited his appearances to maximize their impact, perhaps saving his next one to coincide with a dramatic attack.
Others say bin Laden, aged 50 and believed to suffer from a serious kidney ailment, may be too sick or too tightly pinned down in his hiding place to smuggle out a tape.