LONDON – A widely published photograph of Mohamed Atta shows a clean-shaven man with a lined face, steely gaze and cold expression. A new videotape reveals a younger, bearded man who smiles and pats his hair into place after self-consciously trying on a hat.
Atta, ringleader of the Sept. 11 attacks, appears in the soundless video with fellow hijacker Ziad Jarrah in a tape broadcast for the first time Sunday.
The Sunday Times, which originally reported on the video and posted it on its Web site, said it is the only known image of the two men together.
They appear far different from the mug shots made famous after they were identified as the attackers who hijacked planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and a Pennsylvania field five years ago. Both are bearded. They seem younger, and Atta’s infamously bleak gaze is replaced by a somewhat softer expression.
The video also contains footage of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden speaking to a large audience, including children.
The British newspaper said the hourlong tape was recorded on two different days in Afghanistan in January 2000, and was obtained “through a previously tested channel,” giving no further details. The newspaper said the video had been authenticated, on condition of anonymity, by sources from al-Qaida and the United States.
A U.S. intelligence official, who declined to be identified, citing government protocol, said, “We’re aware of the tape and we’re reviewing it.” The official declined to answer further questions.
The Sunday Times said the footage was taken in Afghanistan and was meant to be released after the men’s deaths.
It appears to be a departure from previous releases by al-Qaida, which is “normally very professional in their media,” said Paul Beaver, a defense and security expert.
It did not appear on Web sites commonly used by the group. The newspaper quoted an unidentified American source who said that lip readers had been unable to decipher what the men were saying.
The newspaper said the hourlong video was made at an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan, is dated Jan. 18, 2000, and contains the only known footage of Atta and Jarrah together.
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