The day Osama bin Laden accepted responsibility for 9/11

Osama bin Laden, in videotape shown on Al Jazeera television on Friday October 29, 2004. (Photo by API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Osama bin Laden in video shown on Al Jazeera television on October 29, 2004. (Getty Images)

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More than three years after the 9/11 terror attacks on US soil, Osama bin Laden accepted responsibility for the atrocities.

In a video released on this day 17 years ago, the al-Qaeda founder admitted for the first time that he had planned the September 11 attacks.

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On 29 October, 2004, news channel Al Jazeera broadcast excerpts from a video in which bin Laden addressed the people of the US.

Osama bin-Laden addresses a news conference in Afghanistan in this May 26, 1998 file photo. Al Qaeda's elusive leader Osama bin Laden is dead and his body has been recovered by U.S. authorities, CNN reported on Sunday night. U.S. President Barack Obama was to make the announcement shortly. REUTERS/Stringer/Files  (AFGHANISTAN - Tags: HEADSHOT POLITICS MILITARY CRIME LAW OBITUARY)
Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for 9/11 three years after the attacks. (Reuters)

The timing was significant – al-Qaeda released the videotape just four days before the US election, in which Republican president George W Bush was up against Democrat candidate John Kerry.

The fact that bin Laden referred to Kerry as a presidential candidate in the video indicated that it had been recorded in the previous few months.

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Bin Laden had appeared in previous videos after 9/11, in which almost 3,000 people were killed, but it was the first time he had claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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In the clip, he spoke for almost 15 minutes in front of a featureless brown background, reading his notes that were resting on a podium.

Speaking in Arabic, he warned the US of further attacks and goaded President Bush.

He began: “You, the American people, I talk to you today about the best way to avoid another catastrophe and about war, its reasons and its consequences.

AFGHANISTAN:Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is seen in this video footage recorded
A video of Osama bin Laden broadcast by TV station Al Jazeera in October 2001. (AFP via Getty Images)

“Although we are ushering the fourth year after 9/11, Bush is still exercising confusion and misleading you and not telling you the true reason.”

Bin Laden claimed he was inspired to attack the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York after witnessing destruction during the civil war in Lebanon in 1982.


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He added: “We never knew that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his people in the two towers to face those events by themselves when they were in the most urgent need of their leader.”

In a reference to Bush reading the book, The Pet Goat, to schoolchildren while being informed the attacks were in progress, bin Laden said: “He [Bush] was more interested in listening to the child's story about the goat rather than worry about what was happening to the towers.”

Bin Laden said: “Your security is not in the hands of Kerry or Bush or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Any nation that does not attack us will not be attacked.”

Just hours after the video was broadcast, Bush gave a short statement from the tarmac in front of Air Force One at Toledo Express Airport in Ohio.

TOLEDO, UNITED STATES:  US President George W. Bush comments on the latest tape recording made by Osama Bin Laden 29 October, 2004, in Toledo, Ohio. Bush, reacting to the video warning by bin Laden said the United States would not
Then US president George W Bush comments on the latest video by Osama bin Laden on 29 October, 2004. (AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry speaks to reporters at the airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, October 29, 2004. Kerry made a statement about the recently released tape purportedly recorded by Osama bin Laden. REUTERS/Brian Snyder US ELECTION  BS
Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry condemns the video from Osama bin Laden on 29 October, 2004, at an airport in Florida. (Reuters)

The US president said: “Let me make this very clear: Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.

“I’m sure Senator Kerry agrees with this. I also want to say to the American people that we're at war with these terrorists and I am confident that we will prevail.”

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Kerry made his own statement, saying: “Let me make it clear, crystal clear: as Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden and the terrorists.

“They are barbarians, and I will stop at absolutely nothing to hunt down, capture or kill the terrorists wherever they are, whatever it takes. Period.”

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B.
Then US president Barack Obama, second left, and then vice president Joe Biden, first left, wait for updates on the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011. (PA)

Bush won the presidential election, taking 286 electoral college votes to Kerry’s 251, while also taking 50.7% of the vote – 62 million to Kerry’s 59 million.

Political commentators speculated that bin Laden’s video was timed to give Bush a boost in the polls. Bush took a six-point lead in the polls in the first survey conducted after the tape was released.

Several other video and audio recordings of the al-Qaeda founder were released in the seven years that followed until, on 2 May, 2011, bin Laden was killed in Pakistan as part of a US Navy Seals operation codenamed “Operation Neptune Spear”.

The raid on his compound in Abbottabad was launched from Afghanistan, while US president Barack Obama, along with his then vice-president Joe Biden and secretary of state Hillary Clinton, waited in the White House Situation Room for updates from the ground.

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