WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden has threatened that al-Qaida will kill U.S. captives if the United States executes self-avowed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed or other members of the terrorist network in U.S. custody.
The newly released message, which aired on the al-Jazeera network Thursday, 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 only Mohammed, who U.S. officials have said could face the death penalty for his alleged role as the principal plotter of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"The White House has expressed its desire to execute him," bin Laden said, according to a translation provided by Flashpoint Partners, headed by terrorism expert Evan Kohlmann. "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 that it has long been clear that Americans captured by al-Qaida cannot expect to live.
Al-Qaida is not believed to have any U.S.-born prisoners. But a Taliban group with close 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.