DUBAI- Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the December 25 failed bombing of a U.S.-bound plane in an audio tape aired on Sunday, and vowed to continue attacks on the United States.

Bin Laden, speaking days ahead of major international meetings on how to deal with militancy in Afghanistan and Yemen, said on Al Jazeera television the attempt to blow up the plane as it neared Detroit was a continuation of al Qaeda policy since September 11, 2001 attacks.

The message sent to you with the attempt by the hero Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a confirmation of our previous message conveyed by the heroes of September 11, bin Laden said on the tape in a message addressed from Osama to (U.S. President Barack) Obama.

If it was possible to carry our messages to you by words, we wouldn't have carried them to you by planes, bin Laden said.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, has been charged with trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253.

The botched attack by the Yemen-based regional wing of al Qaeda on Christmas Day, and subsequent threats in Yemen, sparked global pressure for a crackdown, helping prompt Sanaa to declare an open war on the militant group within its territory.

Defense and counterterrorism officials say Washington quietly has been supplying military equipment, intelligence and training to Yemen to destroy suspected al Qaeda hide-outs.

Since the attempted bombing, Yemen has launched a series of air strikes targeting al Qaeda leaders and has declared that some top regional leaders, including Qasim al-Raymi and Ayed al-Shabwani, have been killed.

But reports of the deaths may have been premature. Al Qaeda denies the claims. Yemen subsequently launched further attacks on the rural home of Shabwani but gave no hint as to the result.

On Sunday's tape, bin Laden cited Washington's support for Israel as a motivator for more attacks on the United States, and vowed to keep on as long as Palestinians cannot live in peace.

Our attacks against you will continue as long as U.S. support for Israel continues, bin Laden said.

It is not fair that Americans should live in peace as long as our brothers in Gaza live in the worst conditions.

A White House adviser said on Sunday he could not confirm the authenticity of the audiotape.

I can't confirm that (al Qaeda's responsibility for the attack) nor can we confirm the authenticity of the tape, but assuming that it is him, his message contains the same hollow justifications for the mass slaughter of innocents that we've heard before, David Axelrod said on CNN's State of the Union programme.

Libyan analyst and former Bin Laden associate Noman Benotman said the tape was intended to send a message to the Arab world.

It's a very smart 'back to basics' message, reminding his audience it is all about Israel and America. His main audience is the Arab World, where al Qaeda has lost substantial moral support, Benotman said.

The reference to September 11 gives al Qaeda's actions a continuity and a definable shape.


Britain, ahead of the meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen Wednesday and Thursday in London, raised its terrorism threat level to severe -- the second highest level -- on Friday.

The decision to raise the level from substantial means security services now consider an attack in Britain, a key U.S. ally, to be highly likely. But the government said it had no information to suggest an attack was imminent.

Yemen gained a reputation as an al Qaeda haven after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and came under a renewed spotlight after crackdowns on the group in Pakistan and Afghanistan raised fears Yemen was becoming a training and recruiting center for militants.

The high profile meetings on Afghanistan and Yemen are aimed at galvanizing efforts to stabilize both nations and stop al Qaeda from using either country as a base.

The Afghanistan meeting on Thursday is meant to chart a path for the country to take greater responsibility for its security. Britain says the meeting also will look at how Afghanistan's neighbors could work together to help stabilize it.

On Wednesday, foreign ministers of Yemen's main Western and Gulf partners will also meet to try to mobilize support for the country and identify what needs to be done by the government and its allies to tackle its challenges.

In addition to fighting a resurgent al Qaeda, Yemen also is fighting a separate northern Shi'ite rebellion and trying to contain southern separatists.

Three Yemeni soldiers were killed in an attack at a Yemeni checkpoint by suspected southern separatists, a Yemeni official said on Sunday, in a province where the state also is hunting al Qaeda.

Southern secessionists represent a potent threat for President Ali Abdullah Saleh. North and south Yemen united in 1990 under Saleh. The bumpy merger led to a brief 1994 civil war won by the north.

Southerners say jobs and resources have gone to the north. Saleh has said he is open for dialogue with separatists if they renounce violence, but diplomats see no movement toward this.

(Additional reporting by Amena Bakr in Dubai and Mohamed Sudam in Sanaa; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Michael Roddy)