Al Qaeda Says It's Behind Synagogue Attack, Vows More

Sun Jun 23, 1:20 PM ET
By Ghaida Ghantous

DUBAI (Reuters) - A known al Qaeda spokesman said in a voice recording broadcast Sunday that the militant group was behind a deadly suicide attack at a Tunisian synagogue and warned of fresh attacks against the United States in "months."

The spokesman, in a tape aired on the Qatar-based al-Jazeera channel, also said Osama bin Laden ( news - web sites), Washington's main suspect in the September 11 attacks, was alive and "in good health."

It was the first direct claim of al Qaeda involvement in the blast near El Ghriba synagogue on the resort island of Djerba in April which killed 21 people, including 14 Germans. German government ministers had earlier said there was evidence linking the blast to the militant network.

"This operation was carried out by al Qaeda network. A youth could not see his brothers in Palestine butchered and murdered...(while) he saw Jews cavorting in Djerba," Sulaiman bu Ghaith said in the undated recording broadcast by al-Jazeera.

"So this spirit of jihad surged and he (the al Qaeda member) carried out this successful operation, may God accept it," said bu Ghaith, who emerged as an al Qaeda spokesman after the September 11 attacks.

Jazeera said it received the tape Saturday, but it was not clear when it was recorded or from where bu Ghaith was speaking. He has previously spoken about al Qaeda on Web sites and Middle Eastern news channels, warning that al Qaeda attacks against the United States were not over.


Bu Ghaith said the United States had not defeated al Qaeda during its military campaign on Afghanistan ( news - web sites) and warned the United States to get ready for another attack.

"As long as America insists on its unjust and biased policy toward Muslims in favor of Jews and Christians around the world, then God willing we will continue to hit it anywhere in the world," said bu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti-born cleric.

"America knows the truth of what we say. We have the ability to carry out our threats and in the coming days and months we will prove to world the truth of what we say," he said.

Bu Ghaith said 98 percent of al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahri, had survived the Afghanistan campaign and were "going about their work."

"I want to reassure Muslims that Sheikh Osama bin Laden is in good health, thank God, and that all that is rumored about Sheikh Osama bin Laden being injured or sick in Tora Bora is not true," he said. "The whole world...will discover that in an interview with Osama bin Laden soon, God willing, which will appear on television screens."

Bin Laden's fate remains unclear since the U.S. strikes on his Afghan strongholds. He has appeared in undated video footage in April and May, warning the United States would not feel safe until Palestinians enjoyed peace and extolling martyrdom.


Bin Laden, who has never clearly claimed responsibility for the attacks on New York and Washington, regards the United States as the enemy of Muslims for what he calls bias toward Israel and for having a military presence in Muslim countries, mainly Saudi Arabia.

Bu Ghaith praised the attacks and other previous ones against U.S. interests as a "victory," but it was not clear if he was referring to al Qaeda or Muslims in general.

"God gave us a historic and great victory that broke the backs of Americans and broke the back of the greatest power in the world," he said and also praised the 1998 bombings at U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and the bombing of the USS Cole ( news - web sites) in Yemen.

"We believe we are still at the beginning of the war and it is only a stage and we are still at the beginning of the road," bu Ghaith, who has been stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship, said in the recording aired in separate short segments.

Jazeera, which has in the past shown footage of bin Laden and his followers, said bu Ghaith's recording was taped recently because he referred to the controversy in the United States about whether U.S. authorities might have had information to prevent the devastating attacks on U.S. cities.

Jazeera gained fame for its coverage of U.S. military strikes on Afghanistan and earlier interviews with bin Laden.