WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden has threatened that al-Qaida will kill U.S. captives if the United States executes self-avowed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or other members of the terrorist network in U.S. custody.
The newly released message, which aired on the al-Jazeera network yesterday, comes as officials in Washington are wrestling with how prosecutions of those detainees should proceed. Bin Laden refers broadly to "the captives you have taken from us" in the 74-second recording, but he specifically mentions Mohammed, who could face the death penalty if convicted.
"The White House has expressed its desire to execute him," bin Laden said, according to a translation provided by Flashpoint Partners. "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."
U.S. officials dismissed the threat, saying it has long been clear that Americans captured by al-Qaida cannot expect to live. "They may have forgotten [slain Wall Street Journal reporter] Danny Pearl and all the others they've slaughtered, but we haven't," said a U.S. counterterrorism official.
Al-Qaida is not believed to have any U.S.-born prisoners. But a Taliban group with ties to al-Qaida has been holding a U.S. soldier in Pakistan for months. Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured near a U.S. military compound in Afghanistan in June. - The Washington Post