New bin Laden message to focus on Israel: monitors
By Randall Mikkelsen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden will address the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding in a Web message expected to underscore a growing focus on the Jewish state, U.S.-based Internet monitors said on Thursday.
Militant Islamist message boards on the Internet carried a banner announcing the statement with Israel's anniversary as the topic, said the monitoring service of the U.S. author and analyst who goes by the name Laura Mansfield.
The speech is addressed to "Western peoples" and entitled "The Causes of Conflict on the 60th Anniversary of the State of Israeli Occupation," the SITE Institute monitoring group said. The monitor IntelCenter said an audio-video statement was expected to be released within 72 hours.
"Bin Laden seems to be shifting gears," over the last decade, Mansfield said. "In his initial messages, bin Laden's focus was on the removal of U.S. forces from (Saudi Arabia) but in recent years he has more closely wedded himself to the Palestinian issue."
In a message on March 20, his second in 2008, bin Laden urged Muslims to maintain the struggle against U.S. forces in Iraq as a path toward "liberating Palestine."
Al Qaeda has vowed attacks on Jews both within and outside Israel, and regularly expressed support for the Palestinians. Al Qaeda was blamed for a suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and a simultaneous failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter jet near the Mombasa, Kenya, airport in 2002.
But despite calls by al Qaeda supporters for the militant network to establish a presence in Palestinian areas, U.S. intelligence officials see no evidence it has done so. Analysts say al Qaeda faces competition for turf from the well-established Hamas.
Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, criticized Hamas in March 2007 as a servant of U.S. interests by agreeing to respect past Palestinian accords with Israel.
He denounced Saudi Arabia and Egypt in December for serving U.S. interests, as he accused Arab leaders of betraying Palestinians by attending a Middle East peace conference in the United States.
A new message from Zawahri was likely in the coming week and was expected to pertain to Egypt, Mansfield said.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)