PETA vs. Bin Laden: News Stranger Than Fiction

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Omar Osama bin Laden (left) and his British wife Jane Felix-Browne, who has taken the Muslim name Zaina Alsabah, live in Cairo, Egypt.

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Two unlikely newsmakers share a story this week. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has spoken out against a proposed endurance horse race across North Africa that would replace this year's Paris-to-Dakar car race.

The famous off-road car race was canceled for security reasons, fearing terrorist intervention.

Enter Omar Osama bin Laden, the 26-year-old estranged son of Al Queda leader Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden the Younger has proposed a horse race to replace the car race, and is serving as spokesman and organizer, with his British wife. The race would cover 4800 km (roughly 3000 miles) and the horses would "race" 30 miles per day.

Bin Laden refers to the project in the international press as a "peace mission".

PETA calls it cruelty.

"Horses are flesh and blood. Such a gruelling race will mean fatalities, not peace. Animals have not declared war on us-they should be truly left in peace," wrote PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in an open letter to bin Laden.

The original article that provoked Newkirk to protest was published in an Australian newspaper, The Sun Herald on January 19. News agencies around the world picked up the bin Laden the Younger story yesterday only after PETA publicized the horse race.

Omar's father was a devotee of horses before his disappearance to lead Al Queda from secret locations. He abandoned his now-aging Arabian racehorses when he fled Khartoum in Sudan, but a caretaker there still maintains them for him.

Drawing the attention of PETA may give the event and its organizers' peace message more publicity than they could have obtained from running the race.