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Al-Jazeera Video Gives Link Between Al-Qaida and July London Bombings<P>By Alan Cowell THE NEW YORK TIMES <P>LONDON <P>

Al-Jazeera Video Gives Link Between

Al-Qaida and July London Bombings

By Alan Cowell


Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant praised the July 7 bombings in London in a videotape that also featured a statement from a man who closely resembled one of the bombers. The tape, broadcast on Al-Jazeera, also said al-Qaida would carry out more attacks.

If proved authentic, the tape would either be evidence of a link between al-Qaida and the bombings, or an attempt by the group to associate itself with the attacks after the fact. Officials in Britain and the United States said they were aware of the tape and were investigating it, but could not comment on its authenticity.

The man resembling one of the British-born bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, read what Al-Jazeera described as a testament, somewhat like those recorded by Palestinian suicide bombers for broadcast after an attack. Speaking in a Yorkshire accent, he praised “our beloved sheik, Osama bin Laden,” and declared, “We are at war, and I am a soldier and now you too will taste the reality of this situation.”

The video included what appeared to be a section showing Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command of al-Qaida, speaking of “the blessed London battle, which came as a slap to the face of the tyrannical, crusader British arrogance.”

“Like its glorious predecessors in New York, Washington, and Madrid, this blessed battle has transferred the battle to the enemies’ land,” al-Zawahiri said, speaking in Arabic.

The two men did not appear together on the tape.

It was not clear when the tape was recorded or why it took so long to be released. It was broadcast exactly eight weeks after the July 7 attack, in which 56 people died, including the four bombers.

While Scotland Yard said investigators were aware of the tape, the office of Prime Minister Tony Blair declined to comment. An American intelligence official said the Central Intelligence Agency was aware of the tape, and a second official said counterterrorism officials were particularly interested in the statement made by the man resembling Khan.

Blair has strenuously resisted the idea that the bombings were inspired by Muslim anger at his decision to commit British troops to the Iraq war alongside American forces. In the tape, al-Zawahiri referred specifically to the “inferno of Iraq,” and said Blair was conducting a “crusader war against Islam.”

On July 7 four bombers, including Khan, two other British-born men of Pakistani descent and a Briton of Jamaican ancestry, died in attacks on three subway trains and a red double-decker bus. The attackers all lived in the north of England.

Two weeks later, four more men attacked similar targets but there were no direct casualties. Three of the main July 21 suspects are under arrest in Britain; a fourth awaits extradition hearings in Rome.

Up until now, investigators had leaned towards the theory that the two sets of bombers were local cells operating separately and without a common mastermind.