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Bin Laden in reprisals threat over trial

Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has threatened to kill any captured Americans if the US executes the mastermind behind September 11.

In a new audio message aired on Al-Jazeera TV, bin Laden said if the US executes Khalid Sheik Mohammed it would mean a “death sentence” for Americans captured by al Qaida.

Mohammed, who has confessed to plotting the 9/11 atrocities, is currently in US custody.

The Obama administration is still debating where to hold his trial.

The US is still considering

whether to put him and four fellow plotters before a military tribunal.

It is also looking into recommendations for civilian trials, and is expected to announce a decision in the near future.

In a brief 74-second audio tape, bin Laden said if the US decides to execute any al-Qaida suspects in its custody — and explicitly mentioned Mohammed — his terror network would kill American captives.

The terror leader said such a decision “would mean the US has issued a death sentence against whoever of you becomes a prisoner in our hands”.

It was not immediately clear whether al Qaida is currently has any US captives, but the Haqqani group — the Pakistan-based Taliban faction closest to al Qaida — is holding an American soldier it captured in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009. It released a video of him in December.

Bin Laden said President Barack Obama was following in the footsteps of his predecessor George Bush by escalating the war in Afghanistan, being “unjust” to al Qaida prisoners and supporting Israel in its occupation of Palestinian land.

Bin Laden said Americans had previously thought their homeland was beyond the reach of his group until the 9/11 attack.

Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003, is the most senior al Qaida operative in US custody, and is currently in detention at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

In 2008, the US charged him with murder and war crimes in connection with the September 11 attacks.

Pentagon officials have said they will seek the death penalty.

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