Bin Laden warning day before attacks

2001-09-18 14:05

Washington (14/09/2001) - Just one day before the worst-ever terrorist attack on US soil, a report was issued to the US Congress warning of the dangers posed by Osama bin Laden, the Saudi dissident who is the prime suspect in this week's terrorist attacks.

The report was dated September 10, though it was not released until September 13, two days after four aircraft were hijacked and crashed into the twin towers of New York's World Trade Centre, the Pentagon outside Washington and a field in western Pennsylvania.

"Based on US allegations of past plotting by the bin Laden network, (it) suggests that the network wants to strike within the United States itself," the 30-page report by the Congressional Research Service, which provides information to lawmakers at their request, concluded.

"Signs continue to point to a decline in state sponsorship of terrorism, as well as a rise in the scope of threat posed by the independent network of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden," the document continued.

The eerie timing of the report, which seeks to offer "essential background for policymakers," is no more than a coincidence, according to a statement released by the service.

The report confirms long time concerns voiced in a myriad official US terrorism reports, about the man whose name was first mentioned publicly on Thursday by US Secretary of State Colin Powell as the number one suspect in the attacks.

As recently as April, in the annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report released by the US State Department, bin Laden was mentioned as the most notorious of the leaders of nebulous multinational terrorist networks, which have sprung up to fill the gaps left by state-sponsored groups.

Bin Laden has, since 1999, occupied the top spot on a Federal Bureau of Investigations list of the world's ten most wanted terrorists, with a $5m reward offered for any information about his whereabouts, to aid in his capture.

A call to action in February 1998 under the auspices of the World Islamic Front for Jihad against the Jews and Crusaders affirming that "it was the duty of all Muslims everywhere to kill US citizens and their allies everywhere," was highlighted as evidence of bin Laden's danger to the United States.

His presence in Afghanistan, "a primary hub for terrorists" harboured by that country's ruling Taliban militia, and the support he has been able to provide to Pakistan have shifted the apex of world terrorism away from the Middle East and towards south-central Asia, State Department officials suggest.

The US Central Intelligence Agency has since 1998 been authorised to use covert means to pre-empt terrorist operations planned by bin Laden, The Washington Post reported Friday, no doubt in response to suspicions of his involvement in heinous attacks in Africa in that year.

The exiled son of a Saudi billionaire is thought by US officials be the mastermind of the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 that left 224 dead, and is suspected in the attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Aden, Yemen that killed 17 US military personnel in October last year.

The State Department also has implicated bin Laden in the failed attempts in the Philippines to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1994 and former US president Bill Clinton in 1995.

The report also concludes that his al-Qaeda network could have cells in over 30 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East, but also in Europe, in Canada and in the United States. รป Sapa/AFP