CAIRO - Osama bin Laden endorsed the failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day and threatened new attacks against the United States in an audio message released yesterday that appeared aimed at asserting he maintains some direct command over al-Qaida-inspired offshoots.
However, U.S. officials and several researchers who track terrorist groups said there was no indication bin Laden or any of his top lieutenants had anything to do with or even knew in advance of the Christmas plot by a Yemen-based group that is one of several largely independent al-Qaida franchises.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said al-Qaida's core leaders offer groups strategic guidance but depends on them to carry it out. "He's trying to continue to appear relevant" by talking up the Christmas attack, spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
The one-minute message was explicit in its threat of new attacks. "God willing, our raids on you will continue as long as your support for the Israelis continues," bin Laden said in the recording, released to the Al-Jazeera news channel.
The message, which White House officials said was not yet authenticated, raised anew the question of how much of a link exists between al-Qaida's leadership along the Afghan-Pakistani border and the loosely affiliated groups operating in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and Iraq. - AP