Associated Retired Aviation Professionals

One Man and a Global Web of Violence

January 14, 2001

The following article is based on reporting by Craig Pyes, Judith
Miller and Stephen Engelberg and was written by Mr. Engelberg.

In 1987, several years after he began training Arab volunteers to
oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had a vision.
The time had come, he told friends, to start a global jihad, or
Islamic holy war, against the corrupt secular governments of the
Muslim Middle East and the Western powers that supported them.

Mr. bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire, would use his camps in
Afghanistan to take holy warriors from around the world   who had
always pursued local goals   and shape them into an international
network that would fight to bring all Muslims under a militant
version of Islamic law.

Some of his comrades in arms warned him that the goal was

"I talked to Osama one day and asked him what was he doing,"
recalled Abdullah Anas, an Algerian who was fighting in Afghanistan
at the time and provided a rare personal narrative of the formation
of Mr. bin Laden's organization. " `Imagine after five years a guy
from Malaysia goes back to his country. How can he remember you are
his leader? He will get married, have children, engage in work in
his country. How can you establish one camp for jihad in the
world?' "

But he and other doubters watched as Mr. bin Laden, who is now
America's most wanted terror suspect, set about doing just that.
Mr. Anas's account and those of other witnesses, along with
intelligence from United States, the Middle East and Europe, draw a
vivid and newly detailed portrait of the birth of a modern jihad
movement. What began as a holy war against the Soviet Union took on
a new dimension, Mr. Anas said, when Mr. bin Laden broke away and
established a new corps of militant Muslims whose ambitions reached
far beyond the borders of Afghanistan.

From his Afghan camps, Mr. bin Laden created a kind of
clearinghouse for Islamic terrorism, which American officials say
not only conducts its own operations but trains and underwrites
local militants, connecting home-grown plots to a global crusade.

His strategy is aptly captured by one of his many code names: The
Contractor. The group he founded 13 years ago, Al Qaeda, Arabic for
The Base, is led by masterful opportunists who tailor their roles
to the moment, sometimes teaching the fine points of explosives,
sometimes sending in their own operatives, sometimes simply
supplying inspiration.

The group has become a beacon for Muslim Malaysians, Algerians,
Filipinos, Palestinians, Egyptians, even Americans who have come to
view the United States as their enemy, an imperial power propping
up corrupt and godless governments. Mr. bin Laden has tried to
bridge divisions in a movement long plagued by doctrinal, ethnic
and geographic differences. "Local politics drives what they're
doing, but it's much more visionary," said Robert Blitzer, a former
F.B.I. counterterrorism official. "This is worldwide. This is, `We
want to be somewhere in a hundred years.' "

According to a recent Central Intelligence Agency analysis, Al
Qaeda operates about a dozen Afghan camps that have trained as many
as 5,000 militants, who in turn have created cells in 50 countries.
Intelligence officials say the group is experimenting with chemical
weapons, including nerve gas, at one of its camps.

Mr. bin Laden and his supporters use centuries-old interpretations
of the Koran to justify violence in the name of God against fellow
Muslims or bystanders   a vision on the farthest extremes of one of
the world's largest religions. But their operations are thoroughly
modern   encrypted e-mail, bomb-making recipes stored on CD-ROM's,
cell phones and satellite communications.

The group plans attacks months or years in advance, investigators
say. A former United States Army sergeant, Ali A. Mohamed   who
worked for Mr. bin Laden and is now a government witness   has told
prosecutors that Al Qaeda trains "sleeper" agents, or "submarines,"
to live undetected among local populations.

Mr. bin Laden has not achieved his more ambitious goals. He has
not brought more Muslims under the rule of Islamic law, toppled any
of the Arab governments he took aim at, or driven the United States
out of the Middle East. His violence has repulsed many believers
and prompted severe crackdowns in Arab states that already have
limited political freedoms.

Nonetheless, he and his small inner circle have preoccupied
American officials, paralyzing embassies, thwarting military
exercises and making Americans abroad feel anxious and vulnerable.
Earlier this month, the United States closed its Rome embassy for
nearly two days after intelligence officials warned of a possible

American officials have charged Mr. bin Laden with masterminding
the 1998 bombings of two embassies in Africa that killed more than
200 people, and suspect him of involvement in the October bombing
of the destroyer Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors. Four men
went on trial this month in lower Manhattan in the African

American authorities are also examining Al Qaeda's role in three
plots timed to millennium celebrations in 1999   attacks directed
at another American ship, a so-far unknown target in the United
States, and tourist sites and a hotel in Jordan.

Mr. bin Laden's group has recently attempted operations against
Israel   a significant departure, American and Middle Eastern
officials say. They acknowledge that he has ensured his
organization's survival, in the event of his capture or death, by
designating a successor: his longtime aide, Abdulaziz abu Sitta, an
Egyptian known as Muhammad Atef or Abu Hoffs al-Masri. Last week,
according to Al Jazeera, an Arab satellite channel, his son married
Mr. Masri's daughter in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"His arrest, which we dearly hope for, is only one step along the
road of the many things we need to do to eliminate the network of
organizations," said Richard A. Clarke, the top White House
counterterrorism official.

The Cause:
Afghan War Draws Young Arab Fighters
Al Qaeda grew out of the
jihad inspired by Muslim scholars to combat the Soviet Union's 1979
invasion of Afghanistan. They issued religious rulings, known as
fatwas, which exhorted Muslims everywhere to defend the Islamic
land of Afghanistan from infidels. Over the next few years, several
thousand young Arab men joined the Afghan resistance.

One of the first to answer the call was a young Algerian named
Boujema Bounouar, who went by the nom de guerre Abdullah Anas. In
recent interviews in London, where he now lives, Mr. Anas recounted
how Mr. bin Laden went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets and was
drawn to a group of Egyptians who wanted to start a global jihad.

Mr. Anas, who is now a leader of an Algerian Islamic political
party, is not a dispassionate observer. He acknowledges that he
opposed Mr. bin Laden, whose program of terrorism, he says, has
tarred the reputations of thousands of Arabs who fought honorably
for the Afghan cause. But his firsthand account, which conforms
with Western intelligence analysis, provides one of few portraits
of Mr. bin Laden's evolution as a militant leader. 

The two men were defined by many of the same forces. Mr. Anas said
his journey from teacher of the Koran to holy warrior began in
1984, when he was 25 and living with his family in Western Algeria.
Visiting the local library, he read in a news weekly about a
religious ruling that waging war against the Soviets was every
Muslim's duty.

"After a few days, everyone heard about this fatwa and started
talking," he recalled. " `Where is this Afghanistan? Which people
are they? How can we go there? How much is the ticket?' "

That year, Mr. Anas was among the million Muslims who participated
in the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. "You
feel very holy," he said. "People from all over the world. From
Zimbabwe to New Delhi. Everyone is wearing just two pieces of white
cotton. Everybody. You can't describe who is the minister, who is
the president. No jewelry. No good suit." 

In Mecca, he said, prayer leaders spoke emotionally about the
jihad in Afghanistan.

He was standing in the marble expanse of the Great Mosque with
50,000 others when, he said, a friend pointed out a radical
Palestinian scholar who was organizing the Arab support for the
Afghans. His name was Abdullah Azzam, and his writings, which would
help spur the revival of the jihad movement in the 20th century,
were just becoming widely known.

Mr. Anas introduced himself and asked whether the magazine article
he had seen in the library was correct. Had the religious leaders
agreed that fighting in Afghanistan was a duty of all Muslims? 

"He said, `Yes, it's true.' " 

" `O.K.,' I said. `If I want to
go to Afghanistan, what do I do now?' "

Mr. Azzam gave him a business card with a telephone number in
Islamabad, Pakistan, where he was a university professor. A week
later, Mr. Anas was on a flight from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. 

He had no idea where he was going, or what he would do. He dialed
the only phone number he knew in Pakistan, reaching Mr. Azzam, who
offered him a place to stay in his own house, a bustling salon
frequented by students and scholars. 

It was there that he first caught sight of Mr. Azzam's youngest
daughter, whom he would marry five years later. And Mr. Azzam
introduced him to a Saudi visitor identified in the traditional
Arabic way, as Abu Abdullah, the father of his eldest son,
Abdullah. The visitor was Osama bin Laden. 

The two men exchanged pleasantries. Mr. bin Laden's name was well
known. He was said to be the youngest of 24 brothers in a family
that ran one of the largest construction companies in the Arab

Mr. bin Laden seemed no different from the other Arab volunteers
who were starting to arrive in Pakistan, Mr. Anas recalled. The
conversation turned to how the volunteers could help the Afghans
win their jihad, and teach them more about Islam.

The Soviet forces had a considerable advantage in the Afghan
conflict. Their helicopter gunships controlled the air, and their
troops held the main roads. But the rebels had powerful friends.
The United States and Saudi Arabia were spending millions funneling
arms to the Afghans through Pakistan's intelligence service.

Mr. Anas began by teaching the Koran to the Afghan rebels, who did
not speak Arabic and learned the verses by rote. He also led
prayers at a "guest house" set up in Pakistan for Arab volunteers.
At the time, he said, there were no more than a few dozen Arabs in
the country, working with the rebels. None spoke the Afghan

After a few months, Mr. Anas said, he trekked into Afghanistan to
join a combat unit, one of three Arabs traveling with a caravan of
600 Afghan soldiers. He learned Farsi and took on the role of
mediator, traveling among the feuding rebel camps. He spent most of
each year inside Afghanistan. 

Mr. Anas became a top aide to Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, whose
troops controlled northern Afghanistan and are now fighting the
Taliban rulers   who support Mr. bin Laden.

Like many Muslims who joined the rebels, Mr. Anas expected to die
in the Afghan jihad and earn the special status designated in the
Koran for martyrs, which includes forgiveness of sins and the
enjoyment in Paradise of beautiful virgins. "It's not the main idea
to be a shahid," or martyr, he said. "But it's part of my plan."

In the mid-1980's, American and Middle Eastern intelligence
officials say, Mr. bin Laden moved to Peshawar, a Pakistani city
near the border with Afghanistan. The city was a staging ground for
the war against the Soviets; American, French and Pakistani
intelligence officers intrigued and competed there to manipulate
the Afghan cause to their countries' advantage.

Mr. bin Laden's fortune of several hundred million dollars gained
him immediate popularity.

"He was one of the guys who came to jihad in Afghanistan," Mr.
Anas said. "But unlike the others, what he had was a lot of money.
He's not very sophisticated politically or organizationally. But
he's an activist with great imagination. He ate very little. He
slept very little. Very generous. He'd give you his clothes. He'd
give you his money." 

Mr. Anas, who returned annually to Pakistan from the Afghan
battlefields to visit with Mr. Azzam, said Mr. bin Laden at first
slept in the guest house in Peshawar on a cushion on the floor. He
recalled that Mr. Azzam liked to say: "You see, this man has
everything in his country. You see he lives with all the poor
people in this room."

At about this time, in 1984, Mr. Azzam set up the organization
that would play a pivotal role in the global jihad over the next
decade. It was called the Makhtab al Khadimat, the Office of
Services, and its goal was to recruit and train Muslim volunteers
for the Afghan fronts. Mr. Azzam raised money for the organization
in countries overseas including the United States and gave
impassioned speeches promoting the Afghan cause. Mr. bin Laden
embraced the idea from its inception and became Mr. Azzam's
partner, providing financial support and handling military affairs.

Mr. bin Laden worked best with small groups, Mr. Anas said. "When
you sit with Osama, you don't want to leave the meeting," he said.
"You wish to continue talking to him because he is very calm, very

A main goal of the Office of Services, Mr. Anas said, was to
prevent the increasing number of outside volunteers from taking
sides in the rebels' factional struggles. "We are in Afghanistan to
help the jihad and all the Afghan people," Mr. Azzam told him. 

But there was increasing frustration from many of the disaffected
young Muslims over Mr. Azzam's insistence that the Office of
Services support only the Afghan cause   when many were agitated
about the plight of their own homelands. Some approached Mr. bin

"They told him: `You shouldn't be staying with Abdullah Azzam. He
doesn't do anything about the regimes   Saudi, Egyptian, Algerian.
He's just talking about Afghanistan,' " Mr. Anas said.

"These people are always saying to Osama: `You should establish
something. Have a clear idea to use these people after Afghanistan
for other wars.' "

Among those most ardently courting Mr. bin Laden was a group of
Egyptian radicals called the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which helped
assassinate President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. 

The Egyptian group advocated the overthrow of governments by
terrorism and violence, and one of its key figures, Ayman al-
Zawahiri, had taken shelter in Afghanistan. Mr. Anas said   and
Western intelligence agencies agree   that Dr. Zawahiri was a
commanding early influence on Mr. bin Laden. Today he is part of Al
Qaeda's leadership, according to intelligence officials.

But Mr. Azzam quarreled bitterly with the Egyptians. 

Mr. Anas
said he once witnessed a heated argument between Mr. Azzam and
Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a radical religious scholar, who argued
that the flouting of Islamic law had turned Presidents Mohammed Zia
ul-Haq of Pakistan and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt into infidels who
could therefore be killed. Sheik Abdel Rahman later moved to
Brooklyn, where he was associated with an Office of Services
branch. In 1995 he was convicted of plotting to blow up New York

In 1986, according to Mr. Anas and Middle Eastern intelligence
officials, Mr. bin Laden began to chart a separate course. He
established his own training camp for Persian Gulf Arabs, a group
of about 50 who lived in tents set apart from the other Afghan
fighters. He called the camp Al Masadah   The Lion's Den. 

Within little more than a year the movement divided, as Mr. bin
Laden and the Egyptians founded Al Qaeda   the "base" for what they
hoped would be a global crusade.

Mr. Anas said Mr. Azzam confided to him that Egyptian ideologues
had wooed Mr. bin Laden away, gaining access to his money. "He told
me one time: `I'm very upset about Osama. This heaven-sent man,
like an angel. I am worried about his future if he stays with these
people.' "

The differences between Mr. Azzam and Mr. bin Laden were largely
tactical, Mr. Anas said, noting that the two men remained friends.

A committed enemy of Israel, Mr. Azzam believed the Arab warriors
should focus on creating an Islamic state in Afghanistan, a process
that could take decades. Mr. bin Laden, according to Mr. Anas, came
to believe that such a war could be fought in many countries

"The arguments were very secret," Mr. Anas said. "Only three to
four people knew about them at the time." Mr. Azzam saw little
difference between the United States and the Soviet Union,
contending in his articles and speeches that both were hostile to
Islam. But Mr. Azzam opposed terrorism against the West, Mr. Anas

By the late 1980's, Peshawar had become a magnet for disaffected
young Muslims who shared Mr. bin Laden's views. "Ten people would
open a guest house and start issuing fatwas," Mr. Anas recalled. "
`We are going to make revolution in Jordan, in Egypt, in Syria.'
And they haven't got any contact with the real jihad in

The tide of the Afghan war was turning. Stinger missiles, provided
through the American covert program, had forced Soviet aircraft to
fly far above the battlefields. Afghanistan had become Moscow's
Vietnam. By February 1989, the Soviets had withdrawn.

A C.I.A. official said that the agency, aware of the changing
nature of the jihad, had taken some steps he would not specify to
counter the threat. But Milt Bearden, the former C.I.A. station
chief in Islamabad, who coordinated the agency's anti-Soviet effort
in Afghanistan, disagreed.

"The Soviet Union, armed to the teeth, was falling apart," he
said. "A shooting war then erupted in the Persian Gulf. Afghanistan
was off the front burner."

When the war ended, he said, "we got the hell out of there."

Afghan rebels' war continued, first against the Soviet-backed
government and then within their own ranks. On Nov. 24, 1989, Mr.
Azzam and two sons were killed by a car bomb in Peshawar as they
drove to Friday Prayers. The murders were never solved.

Mr. Anas said he tried to take over leadership of the Office of
Services. According to the C.I.A., the group split; the extremist
faction took control, siding with Mr. bin Laden.

"They loved the ideas of Osama and the person of Abdullah Azzam,"
Mr. Anas said wistfully. "They don't love me." 

The Base:
From Many Lands, Under One Banner
Fired by their triumph over the
Soviets, the Arabs who had fought in Afghanistan returned home,
eager to apply the principles of jihad to their native lands. 

The Koran sets strict limits on when and how holy war is to be
undertaken. But Gilles Kepel, a leading French scholar of
contemporary Islam, said the Afghan veterans were guided by their
own radical interpretation of sacred Muslim texts. "Intoxicated by
the Muslim victory in Afghanistan," he said, "they believed that it
could be replicated elsewhere   that the whole world was ripe for
jihad, which is contrary to Islamic tradition."

They called themselves the Arab Afghans. 

In Jordan some founded
a group, Jaish Muhammad, that officials say took aim at King
Hussein, whose family claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.

In Algeria, the Arab Afghans were among the founders of the Armed
Islamic Group, the most radical to emerge after the military
government canceled the 1991 elections. Known by its French
initials, G.I.A, it began by blowing up military targets and
escalated to wholesale massacres of Algerians who did not believe
in the jihad.

According to Mr. Anas, one of its founding members was an Algerian
who had initially fought with him in Afghanistan but joined Al
Qaeda in the late 1980's. Mr. Anas says he has been told that Mr.
bin Laden provided some of the seed money for the G.I.A.

The early 1990's proved difficult for Mr. bin Laden. He was
enraged by King Fahd's decision to let American troops wage the
Persian Gulf war from Saudi Arabia, site of the two holiest shrines
in Islam. He began to focus his wrath on the United States and the
Saudi government. After the conflict ended, he moved to

But his stay was brief. Within months he fled, telling associates
that Saudi Arabia had hired the Pakistani intelligence service to
kill him. There is no confirmation that such a plot existed.
Nonetheless, in 1991, Mr. bin Laden moved to Sudan, where a
militantly Islamic government had taken power.

Over the next five years, Mr. bin Laden built a group that
combined legitimate business with support for world holy war.

He also set out to accomplish his overriding goal of gathering the
leading Islamic extremist groups under one banner. According to
Middle Eastern officials, Mr. bin Laden and his envoys met with
radicals from Pakistan and Egypt to propose an international
Islamic front, led by Afghan veterans, that would fight Americans
and Jews.

Al Qaeda began training its own operatives. Ali Mohamed, the
government witness, who has said he arranged Mr. bin Laden's move
to Sudan, told investigators that he taught group members about
weapons, explosives, kidnapping, urban fighting,
counterintelligence and other tactics at camps in Afghanistan and
Sudan. He said he showed some of the trainees how to set up cells
"that could be used in operations."

The dispatch of American troops to Somalia in late 1992 and 1993
as part of a United Nations mission was another affront to Mr. bin
Laden. The Bush administration presented it as a relief operation.

American officials say a defector from Al Qaeda told them it
viewed the deployment as a dangerous expansion of American
influence in the region and a step toward undermining the Islamic
government of Sudan.

Al Qaeda privately issued fatwas that directed members to attack
American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Horn of Africa,
according to American prosecutors. They said he also sent his
military chief, an Egyptian who had been with him at the formation
of Al Qaeda, to find the vulnerabilities of United Nations forces
in Africa.

Al Qaeda created a cell in Kenya as a "gateway" to its operations
in Somalia, the prosecutors assert. Members of the group blended
into Kenyan society, opening legitimate businesses that sold fish
and dealt in diamonds, and operating an Islamic charity. 

Federal prosecutors say at least five group members crossed the
border to Somalia, where they trained some of the fighters involved
in an Oct. 3, 1993, battle with United States special forces that
left 18 Americans and several hundred Somalis dead.

The battle, one of the most widely publicized setbacks for
American forces in recent memory, cast a shadow over every
subsequent Clinton administration debate on the possible uses of
ground troops. American intelligence did not learn of Al Qaeda's
role in the ambush until several years later.

Prosecutors say the group also considered attacking Americans in
Kenya to retaliate for the Somalia mission. Mr. Mohamed testified
that Mr. bin Laden sent him to Nairobi in late 1993 to look over
possible American, French, British and Israeli targets for a bomb
attack, including the American Embassy. He said he took photos,
drew diagrams and wrote a report, which he delivered to his boss in
Khartoum. "Bin Laden looked at the picture of the American Embassy
and pointed to where a truck could go as a suicide bomber," he

American prosecutors say Al Qaeda had more grandiose plans: a
leading member, an Iraqi who Mr. Anas said had first gravitated to
Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan, tried to buy enriched uranium in

The Iraqi, Mahdouh Mahmud Salim, forged links between Mr. bin
Laden's group and others supported by Iran. Mr. Salim met with an
Iranian religious official in Khartoum, and soon afterward, the
prosecutors say, Al Qaeda members got training from Hezbollah, the
Iranian-backed Shiite group in Lebanon skilled in making car bombs.
American officials said this alliance was notable because it marked
the first time radicals from the minority Shiite branch of Islam
collaborated with extremists from the dominant Sunni branch.

Mr. bin Laden's business ventures in Sudan   including a tannery,
a transportation company and a construction concern   raised money
and served as cover for the travels of Mr. Salim and others,
according to American officials. They said that his companies
cornered Sudan's exports of gum, sunflower and sesame products  
and that he invested $50 million of his family money in a new
Islamic bank in Khartoum. 

The Network: 
As in Afghanistan, So in the World
The new jihad movement was
fueled by the civil war that consumed Afghanistan in the early
1990's. The training camps that had once schooled soldiers to
battle the Soviet enemy now attracted militants more interested in
fomenting holy war back home   in America, Europe or the Middle
East   than in the struggle for control of Afghanistan. 

The Office of Services, the Pakistan-based group founded in the
1980's by Mr. Azzam to recruit soldiers for the anti-Soviet cause,
arranged the travels of some of these new jihadists, according to
European and American officials.

Many of those associated with the office, Mr. Anas said, shared
Mr. bin Laden's vision of a global movement. American officials
suspect they were acting under his instructions, though this
remains a subject of debate among intelligence analysts.

American investigators stumbled across the first signs of the new
global phenomenon in 1993, when they began to examine the bombing
at the World Trade Center.

They discovered that the four men who carried out the attack,
which killed 6 and wounded more than 1,000, had ties to Sheik Omar
Abdel Rahman, whom they charged with leading a worldwide "jihad
organization" that had begun plotting to kill Americans as early as

Mr. Abdel Rahman was later convicted of conspiring to blow up New
York landmarks, including the United Nations. But in the years
since, American intelligence officials have come to believe that he
and the World Trade Center bombers had ties to Al Qaeda.

The evidence is suggestive, but not conclusive. Several of those
convicted in the World Trade Center case were associated with the
Brooklyn refugee center that was a branch of the Office of
Services, the Pakistan-based organization that Mr. bin Laden helped
finance and lead. The Brooklyn center was headed for a time by
Mustafa Shalabi, an Egyptian murdered in 1991 in a case that
remains unsolved. Federal prosecutors recently disclosed that it
was Mr. Shalabi whom Mr. bin Laden called in 1991 when he needed
help moving to Sudan, according to Mr. Mohamed, the federal

One of the men convicted of bombing the World Trade Center, Ahmad
M. Ajaj, spent four months in Pakistan in 1992, returning to the
United States with a bomb manual later seized by the United States
government. An English translation of the document, entered into
evidence in the World Trade Center trial, said that the manual was
dated 1982, that it had been published in Amman, Jordan, and that
it carried a heading on the front and succeeding pages: The Basic

Those appear to be errors. Two separate translations of the
document, one done at the request of The New York Times, show that
the heading said Al Qaeda   which translates as The Base, the name
of Mr. bin Laden's group. In addition, the document lists a
publication date of 1989, a year after Mr. bin Laden founded his
organization. And the place of publication is Afghanistan, not

Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert who first pointed out the
errors, said they deprived investigators of a subtle early clue to
the existence of Mr. bin Laden's group.

While the trade center trial ended in 1994, federal prosecutors
did not open their grand jury investigation of Mr. bin Laden and Al
Qaeda until 1996.

"Had the government correctly translated the material," Mr.
Emerson said, "it might have understood that the men who blew up
the World Trade Center and Mr. bin Laden's group were linked."

Asked about the mistranslation, an official in the United States
Attorney's office, who declined to be identified, said only that
Mr. Ajaj had been carrying "voluminous material printed by various
organizations." He added that their titles referred to
international conspiracy, commando operations and engineering of

The jihad movement also took root in Europe. In August 1994, three
young French Muslims of North African descent, wearing hoods and
brandishing machine pistols, opened fire on tourists in a hotel
lobby in Marrakesh, Morocco, killing two Spaniards and wounding a
third. The French police investigating the attack learned that it
had been planned by two Moroccan veterans of the Afghan war, who
had recruited commandos for the attack in Paris and Orl ans and
sent more than a dozen of them to Afghanistan for training. 

The indoctrination of the young Muslims began with religion,
according to French court papers and testimony. An Orl ans
mathematics professor and interpreter of the Koran, Mohamed Zin
dine, gathered around him a group of men from the slums of Orl ans
who wanted to learn how to pray. Later, French court papers say, he
instructed them in the concept of waging jihad against corrupt
governments, saying it was a higher stage of Islamic observance. 

One young Moroccan testified that Mr. Zin dine   who is now a
fugitive   showed him a videotape of Muslim victims of "torture in
Bosnia, of babies with their throats cut, of pregnant women
disemboweled, and fingernails torn off." The young man added, "He
told me there was a way of helping them and that I must help them."
Prayers for people like the Muslims in Bosnia, he quoted Mr. Zin
dine as saying, were not enough. He must become an "armed

European investigators tracing the Afghan network in France,
Belgium and Germany found records of phone calls between local
extremists and the Office of Services in Pakistan. In March 1995,
Belgian investigators came across another clue: A CD-ROM in the car
of another Algerian, who had been trained in Afghanistan in 1992
and was part of the G.I.A. cell in Brussels. The CD was initially
ignored, Belgian officials say.

Months later, the Belgians began translating its contents and
discovered several different versions of a manual for terrorism
that had begun circulating among Islamic militants in the early
1990's. The voluminous manual covered diverse subjects, from
"psychological war in Islam" to "the organizational structure of
Israeli intelligence" to "recruiting according to the American

The manual also offered detailed recipes for making bombs,
including instructions on when to shake the chemicals and how to
use a wristwatch as a detonator. In addition there were
instructions on how to kill with toxins, gases and drugs. The
preface included a dedication to the new hero of the holy war:
Osama bin Laden. Versions of the manual circulated widely and were
seized by the police all over Europe. 

Reuel Gerecht, a former C.I.A. official, said he was told that the
agency did not obtain its own copy of the manual before the end of
1999. "The truth is," he said, "they missed for years the largest
terrorist guide ever written." The omission, he asserted, reflects
the agency's reluctance to scrutinize the fallout from its support
of the anti-Soviet jihad.

A C.I.A. official said that the agency had had "access to
versions" of the manual since the late 1980's. "It's not the Holy
Grail that Gerecht reports it to be," he said, adding that the
terrorist-related parts were fairly recent additions.

By the mid-1990's, American officials had begun to focus on Mr.
bin Laden and his entourage in Sudan. They saw him as the
embodiment of a dangerous new development: a stateless sponsor of
terrorism who was using his personal fortune   which one Middle
Eastern official estimated at $270 million   to bankroll extremist

American officials pressed Sudan to eject Mr. bin Laden, and in
1996 they succeeded, forcing him into exile. It was a diplomatic
triumph, but one that many American officials would come to rue.
Mr. bin Laden made his way back to Afghanistan, where a new group
of young Islamic militants, the Taliban, was taking control.

American and Middle Eastern officials said some of the cash that
the Taliban used to buy off local warlords came from Mr. bin Laden.
Soon the new, hard-line rulers of Afghanistan allowed him to use
their country to pursue his goal of creating "one jihad camp for
the world," as Mr. Anas put it.

The Edict: 
A Sacred Muslim Duty to Kill All Foes
Two years after he arrived in
Afghanistan, in February 1998, Mr. bin Laden publicly announced his
intentions. At a camp in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, he and
several other leaders of militant groups declared that they had
founded the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and
Crusaders, an umbrella entity that included Al Qaeda and groups
from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others.

The front issued the following fatwa: "To kill Americans and their
allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty of every
Muslim who is able, in any country where this is possible."

On Aug. 7, 1998, eight years to the day after the first American
troops set foot in Saudi Arabia, Mr. bin Laden delivered on the
threat, American prosecutors say. Bombs exploded hours apart at the
American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The plot, as described by federal prosecutors, was truly
international. Prosecutors assert that the attacks were carried out
by Muslims from Tanzania, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, most of whom
were trained in Afghanistan. The Kenyan plotters, they say, spoke
directly with Mr. bin Laden by satellite telephone as they
developed their plans.

The attacks were costly for Al Qaeda. Less than two weeks after
the embassy bombings, the United States conducted air strikes
against Mr. bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan. Over the next two
years, police and intelligence agencies around the world, many
prodded by the United States, arrested more than 100 militants in
some 20 countries. 

Almost every month, authorities detain or question people with
ties to Al Qaeda. Late last year, in what American officials
described as one of the more alarming cases, the Kuwaiti police
arrested a local man, an Afghan veteran, who said he was associated
with Mr. bin Laden's group and planning to bomb American and
Kuwaiti targets. American officials say he ultimately led the
police to a weapons cache of almost 300 pounds of explosives and
more than 1,400 detonators.

And in addition to the two-day closure of the American Embassy in
Rome, officials say, recent warnings of a possible Al Qaeda attack
prompted the United States to divert an entire carrier battle group
scheduled to dock in Naples.

American officials acknowledge that Al Qaeda and Mr. bin Laden
have proven resourceful, resilient adversaries. Much of his
personal wealth has now been spent, or is in bank accounts that are
now frozen. But officials say he is raising money through a network
of charities and businesses. His group reconstitutes its networks
in many countries as quickly as they are disrupted.

And failure can breed success. In late 1999, American officials
say, a group of Yemenis botched an attempt to blow up an American
ship, The Sullivans, as it passed through Yemen. Their boat, loaded
with explosives, sank a few feet off shore. 

This year, American officials say, a Saudi operative of Mr. bin
Laden's who helped organize that attack worked with some of the
same people on the bombing of the Cole in Yemen. 

Internal crackdowns on Muslim militants, like the Algerian
government's largely successful attempts to stamp out the G.I.A. in
the mid- 1990's, have in several instances fueled the international

American officials said the most radical Algerians were now
collaborating with Mr. bin Laden. In 1999, Algerians were for the
first time implicated in plots against the United States, when
Ahmed Ressam was arrested crossing the border from Canada with a
carload of explosives. Mr. Ressam goes on trial later this year in
Los Angeles.

American and Middle Eastern officials say Al Qaeda has now
expanded its jihad to include Israel, which until recently had
regarded Mr. bin Laden as an American problem. The officials say Al
Qaeda has financed and trained an anti-Israel group, Asbat al
Ansar, that operates from a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon.

Last June, Israel charged in a sealed indictment that a Hamas
member who was plotting to attack targets within Israel, including
settlers and the army, had been trained in one of Mr. bin Laden's
Afghan camps. "Al Qaeda wants in on the action   the new intifada
against Israel," said one American official.

Olivier Roy, a French scholar who follows Islamic activities, says
Al Qaeda's biggest asset is the thousands of jihadists around the
world who no longer see their struggle in strictly local or even
national terms, which makes them impervious to normal political or
military pressure.

Mr. bin Laden's actions, he said, are "not the continuation of
politics by other means."

"Osama bin Laden doesn't want to negotiate." 

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 © 2000 William S. Donaldson III.  All rights reserved