Osama bin Laden threatened in a new message released on Thursday to kill any Americans Al-Qaida captures if the U.S. executes the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks or other Al-Qaeda suspects.
In the 74-second audiotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, the Al-Qaeda leader explicitly mentions Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003. He is the most senior Al-Qaeda operative in U.S. custody and is detained at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 2008, the U.S. charged Mohammed with murder and war crimes in connection with the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Pentagon officials have said they will seek the death penalty for him. Four of his fellow plotters are also in custody.
“The White House has expressed its desire to execute them. The day America makes that decision will be the day it has issued a death sentence for any one of you that is taken captive,” said Osama, addressing Americans.
A U.S. counterterrorism official said it is absurd for Al-Qaeda to suggest it is going to start treating captives badly.
“They may have forgotten Danny Pearl and all the others they've slaughtered, but we haven't,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss classified information.
After his March 2003 capture in Pakistan, Mohammed described himself as the architect of numerous terrorism plots and even claimed that “with my blessed right hand,” he had decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Pearl was found beheaded in Pakistan in 2002.
The U.S. is still considering whether to put Sheik Mohammed and the four fellow plotters on military tribunal.