Bin Laden bent on spectacular US attack until the end

2015-05-20 22:26
File: AP

File: AP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Hunkered down in his Pakistani compound, Osama bin Laden pleaded with his followers to stay focused on attacking the United States instead of being dragged into Muslim infighting.

Documents that were declassified on Wednesday shed new light on the mindset of al-Qaeda's founder, his debates over tactics, his anxiety over Western spying and his fixation with the group's media image.

"The focus should be on killing and fighting the American people and their representatives," the late al-Qaeda figurehead wrote.

The letter was among thousands of files found by US Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011 when they descended on Bin Laden's hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad and shot him dead.

US intelligence agencies have now declassified more than 100 of these documents taken from Bin Laden's archive, after lawmakers ordered the move and critics accused the CIA of withholding material.

AFP was given exclusive access to the documents ahead of their release, and they have since been posted online by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Jeff Anchukaitis, spokesperson for the office, said the release of "a sizeable tranche of documents" was in line with President Barack Obama's call for "increased transparency".

It was also in accordance with a law obliging the spy agencies to review all the Bin Laden material for possible release, he said.

The documents released are English translations of the originals, and AFP had no way to independently verify the materials or the accuracy of the translation.

The release came shortly after US journalist Seymour Hersh alleged that Washington's official account of the hunt for Bin Laden and the raid that led to his death was a lie.

But CIA spokesperson Ryan Trapani said the declassification had been planned for at least a year and had not been intended as a response to Hersh's report.

Drones and heirs

From strategic and theological discussions to the mundane details of domestic funding and security measures, the documents show the man behind 9/11 preoccupied with once again attacking the West in spectacular fashion.

Mindful of drone strikes taking out senior jihadist figures, Bin Laden frequently refers to security headaches and advises against communicating by email.

He scolds his followers for gathering in large groups and frets about a microscopic bug being inserted in his wife's clothes.

He lays out plans to groom a new cadre of leaders, and his associates discuss arrangements for smuggling Bin Laden's favourite son and likely heir, Hamza, to Pakistan.

The spy agencies also released a list of English language books and articles found in Bin Laden's compound.

The "bookshelf" of PDF files showed the al-Qaeda leader was particularly interested in France's economy and conspiracy theories - including those questioning accounts of the 9/11 attacks.

Intelligence officials said the texts suggested Bin Laden was possibly planning to strike at the French economy in hopes of triggering a wider collapse in the West.

Before he was killed, Bin Laden wrote of plans for an elaborate propaganda blitz to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

And among the material posted by US spy agencies was an unreleased video in which Bin Laden appears to stumble delivering a speech.

But the documents also highlight deep divisions among the militants over how to wage their terror campaign.

Bin Laden warns that conflict with regimes in the Middle East would distract the extremists from hitting hard at what as far as he is concerned is the real enemy - America.

"We should stop operations against the army and the police in all regions, especially Yemen," he writes.

ISIS and Bin Laden

Al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq, which would later morph into the Islamic State group - and which now increasingly overshadows al-Qaeda - also comes up in the documents.

Bin Laden and his then deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, receive a scathing rebuke in a letter from some Iraqi supporters, who demand they denounce the bloodletting in Iraq.

In a letter dated May 22, 2007, the Jihad and Reform Front warns Bin Laden that God will hold him to account "for blessing the work done by the al-Qaeda in Iraq organisation without disavowing the scandals that are committed in your name."

Bin Laden writes of the need for large-scale terror operations, even though some of his deputies are finding it difficult to organise mass attacks with drones overhead and US eavesdropping.

One document recently declassified in a terrorism trial in New York but not released on Wednesday quotes Abu Musab al-Suri, an al-Qaeda veteran, who advocates going after smaller targets of opportunity as a more realistic approach, officials said.

"Bin Laden at the time of his death remained focused on large-scale operations while other al-Qaeda leaders believed smaller operations, or inciting lone terrorist attacks, could succeed at bleeding the West economically," the intelligence analyst said.

Bin Laden lost the argument. After his death, al-Qaeda's leadership called for lone wolf attacks, and Suri's idea of "individual jihad" has won out.

The ISIS group, which was officially rejected by al-Qaeda, now controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and its online propaganda has been blamed for inspiring attacks from Paris to the Dallas suburbs.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  isis  |  osama bin laden

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.