Americans will commemorate the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed about 3000 people and gripped the nation's psyche, by organizing silent processions and lighting candles in memory of the victims, even as reports poured in that Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is seen mocking the U.S. in a new video release.
On Tuesday - incidentally the same day when the 2001 attacks took place - New York City will mark the event as it has for the past five anniversaries with a solemn ceremony punctuated by the reading of names of the 2,750 innocent people who died at the World Trade Center.
I think one of the challenges that we as a society have is, how do you keep the memory of 9-11 alive and the lessons of something like 9-11 alive going forward for decades? Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters on Monday.
New York television station WABC tried to deviate from the past by not broadcasting the reading of the names of the dead but backtracked in the face of stiff public opposition.
Bloomberg himself attempted to move this year's commemoration entirely off site because Ground Zero, the site of the Twin Towers, is now a busy construction zone. Families of the victims protested and Bloomberg relented, allowing them limited access.
Notably, with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani running for president, many feel that the 9-11 issue is going to be politicized.
Guiliani leads most of the national polls for the Republican nomination, largely on the strength of his performance on the day of the attack and his pledge to keep the country safe.
Some groups representing the families of victims opposed giving Giuliani a speaking role in the commemoration, raising concerns he would use the platform to promote his presidential aspirations. But Giuliani will speak as planned, and his aides have insisted that he will not politicize the event.
Meanwhile, the failure of the US troops in capturing Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden even after 6 years of the 2001 attacks has whipped up a deep and great sense of dread among the Americans that he is planning a future attack. The fear was reinforced when a new video surfaced a few days before September 11, showing Bin Laden looking healthier than ever and urging the Americans to embrace Islam or face further attacks. No specific attacks were mentioned.
However, not content with releasing just one, Al-Qaeda's media arm Al-Sahab had said Monday that it would release a second video of the group's leader. And, true to its words, a video surfaced Tuesday, in which Bin Laden can be seen praising one of the hijackers who attacked the United States.
According to terrorism expert, Laura Mansfield, the 47-minute long tape was geared as a commemorative tape praising one of the hijackers of the 9-11 attacks.
In an interview with CNN, Mansfield said the videotape showed a still image of the Al-Qaeda leader that looked very much like he did in a video released last week.
The first 14 to 15 minutes of the tape are Bin Laden, Mansfield said. The remainder of the tape is Waleed al-Shehri, one of hijackers on 9-11.
She said the video did not include any moving images of Bin Laden, but it did include English subtitles.
IntelCenter, a US-based organization that monitors Islamic militant websites, said the video appears to only show a still image of Bin Laden with a voice identified as his praising hijacker Walid Al Shehri, who was aboard American Airlines Flight 11 which crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
IntelCenter said the video is titled: The Wills of the Heroes of the Raids on New York and Washington, The Will of the Martyr (As We See Him) Abu Mus'ab Walid Al Shehri, With a Forward by Sheikh Osama bin Laden.
It was unclear when the video was recorded and the authenticity of the tape could not be immediately confirmed.
While security analysts said the message could be a call for new attacks, White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend has rejected that view and has called Bin Laden virtually impotent.
However, the inability of the US administration in capturing Bin laden and its failure in bringing any form of political stability in Iraq, in spite of having 130,000 soldiers deployed there, have planted a heavy sense of failure and frustration in the hearts of the people and the belief that they are losing the war on terrorism.
However, others were more optimistic and forgiving.
In a separate development, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said today that Osama bin Laden is not in hiding in that country. However he had no information about his whereabouts
Experts are divided but many believe Bin Laden still to be alive after initial unsuccessful attempts were made by coalition forces to track him in the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan in the wake of 11 September 2001 attacks. He and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are thought to be hiding somewhere around the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The US Congress recently increased the reward for his capture to $50 million but Bush rarely talks of nabbing Bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda has regularly produced new messages around the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. In 2006, al-Zawahri called on Muslims to attack the U.S. for jailing militant cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. An anniversary video in 2003 showed footage of bin Laden and al-Zawahri walking through mountain paths, with voice-over messages from both leaders.
One of Osama bin Laden's former body guards, Nasser al-Bahri, was quoted in a Newsweek interview as saying that as every month that goes by and the U.S. is unable to capture Bin Laden, his prestige increases in the Muslim world. Because the greatest power in the world wasn't able to catch him, it confirms our conviction that he has the religious right to do what he does, that he's been sent by Allah, al-Bahri said.