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Bin Laden: The recruiter for hate
By Kevin Whitelaw

27/2/2001 11:18 am Tue

[Rencana ini sudah agak lama, tetapi ada beberapa kisah dan fakta menarik untuk diadun bersama siri TAG. Beberapa tuduhan di dalam rencana ini tidak betul, tetapi tidak mengapa kerana Amerika memang anti sesiapa yang menentang penjajahannya. Krisis Bush-Saddam yang kedua ini mungkin sedikit berlainan dan Osama Bin Laden mungkin muncul walaupun bukan di tengah-tengah medan. Dia mungkin menyorok dan memusnahkan sistem perhubungan (jamming communication system) atau melakukan sesuatu yang mudah untuk mengirim Amerika pulang dalam kemaluan. - Editor]

World Report 8/31/98

The recruiter for hate

Osama bin Laden is determined to
bring America to its knees


A combination of soldier and zealot, Arab folk hero and international financier, Osama bin Laden always keeps a Kalashnikov rifle close at hand. Legend has it that during the Afghan war he wrested the prized AK-47 from a Red Army infantryman in hand-to-hand combat. But those were his glory days. Though only about 44 years old, he now uses a cane and moves every few days to a different hideout in the barren mountains of Afghanistan. Yet, officials in Washington say, bin Laden still oversees a multimillion-dollar organization that finances, trains, and equips terrorists, including the alleged perpetrators of the August 7 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

America aimed to cripple that organization last week, striking at bases inside Afghanistan that bin Laden controls. But this Hydra will be hard to slay. U.S. officials say bin Laden's operation is global, with an estimated 3,000 devoted followers active in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Arab veterans of the Afghan war are the core of his cadre. At one of his Sudanese camps, a 20-acre site near Soba, Iranians helped train the Afghan veterans in explosives, forgery, and encryption, according to a report by Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization.

Such an operation does not come cheap. "Bin Laden has the resources that a state sponsor would have," says Eleni Jakub, an analyst for Control Risks Group, a London-based security consulting firm. One of about 20 sons of a Saudi construction magnate, bin Laden inherited his fortune and can tap up to $250 million, the CIA estimates. His family, worth an estimated $5 billion, has disavowed him, and the Saudi government froze some of his funds and revoked his citizenship in 1994. But bin Laden apparently spirited money out of Saudi Arabia long ago.

Bank accounts. U.S. and Middle Eastern intelligence officials say he invests and hides it through a network of front companies, bank accounts, and foundations. He helped to capitalize the Al Shamal Islamic Bank in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. He also is believed to have accounts in Britain, Italy, and Switzerland.

Bin Laden's financial reach has even extended to America. In 1997 his chief financial aide, who some sources believe was a Saudi intelligence agent, informed the Saudis about bin Laden's operation. That led to a probe that traced bin Laden's funds from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Detroit, Brooklyn, and Jersey City, N.J.

Understanding how bin Laden moves his money is one thing; cutting it off is another. "To block accounts, you need an indictment," says one American intelligence source. A New York grand jury has been hearing evidence for months in connection with bin Laden's suspected involvement in a 1995 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed five Americans. But it has not yet led to an indictment, and evidence from Kenya has raised hopes that a stronger case can be built against bin Laden.

Bin Laden's elusiveness is part of his folk-hero status in the Arab world. While quick to praise terrorist acts, he avoids taking responsibility. Although no evidence directly links him to the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center, the mastermind of that attack, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, spent three years in a bin Laden safe house before his arrest. Bin Laden denies a role in the 1996 Khobar Towers barracks bombing, which killed 19 U.S. military personnel, but called it "a great act in which I missed the honor of participating." One of the few operations for which he has claimed responsibility was a December 1992 attempt to kill 100 American troops en route to Somalia.

Bari Atwan, editor of a London-based Arabic newspaper who interviewed bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1996, says he is a humble man who lives simply, eating fried eggs, tasteless low-fat cheese, and bread gritty with sand. "He hates America," Atwan says. "He is very bitter about the way America humiliates Muslims. He says he is not afraid, and he is willing to die." In May, bin Laden himself told ABC News: "We believe that the biggest thieves in the world, and the terrorists, are the Americans." Fanatically antisemitic, he is determined to force America to withdraw the troops it has based on the Arabian peninsula since the gulf war, which he believes defile the land of Mecca and Medina.

Coming of age. When he fought alongside the mujeheddin in Afghanistan, of course, U.S. money and weaponry secretly abetted his cause. He was in his early 20s when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. He used his money to help the Afghan resistance, but he also fought himself, including at the 1989 siege of Jalalabad. During the 10-year war, bin Laden cofounded the Maktab al-Khidamat, or Services Office, which recruited foot soldiers from some 50 countries for the Afghan resistance. He imported bulldozers and heavy equipment to build roads, hospitals, and depots.

He returned home to Saudi Arabia a hero but became disillusioned with the ruling House of Saud, a regime he saw as corrupt and not sufficiently devout. He rebelled, too, against his family. The patriarch of the bin Laden clan, who fathered 52 children, came to Saudi Arabia from southern Yemen in 1967 after a Marxist regime ascended to power there, according to Joseph Kostiner, a Saudi expert at Tel Aviv University. The family created a construction empire in Riyadh, and the father was an architect for King Fahd.

But in 1991 Osama bin Laden uprooted his four wives and their children and sought refuge in Sudan. There, he established his own construction firm, ingratiating himself with the government and winning goodwill with public works. But under pressure from the United States, Sudan expelled him in 1996. So he returned to Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban protect his headquarters.

Trapped in the mountains, bin Laden can no longer travel, as he once did, to cities such as London. He drapes a camouflage jacket over his flowing white robes. Even his satellite phone is a dangerous tool, since it could be used to pinpoint his whereabouts. But bin Laden's organization apparently still is intact. And his reach, too, is long.

With Thomas K. Grose in London, David Makovsky in Israel, Brendan I. Koerner, Richard Z. Chesnoff, and Kevin Whitelaw


Bin Laden network

Osama bin Laden allegedly has a network of several thousand allies and sympathizers, mostly Arabs who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. Many have returned to their home countries, creating a loose alliance of mujeheddin, or holy warriors, throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. This February, bin Laden and a coalition of groups calling itself the Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Americans issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, urging Muslims to kill American civilians. Signers included:

Gamaa Islamiya (Egypt). The "Islamic Group" has fought Egypt's secular government for more than two decades. It carried out the bloodiest terrorist attack in Egypt's history, the Nov. 17, 1997, slaughter of 58 tourists at the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor. In 1995, the Gamaa tried to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on a visit to Ethiopia. One of its leaders, Rifai Taha, is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan. The group's spiritual guide--Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman--is serving a life sentence for plotting to blow up New York City landmarks.

Islamic Jihad (Egypt). "Islamic Holy War" also campaigns against the Egyptian government. It is best known for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Ayman al-Zawahri, who heads a radical Jihad faction and recently threatened U.S. targets, reportedly lives in Afghanistan.

Harakat ul-Ansar (Pakistan). The "Movement of Friends" regularly attacks Indian troops in Kashmir, a border region disputed by India and Pakistan. The State Department has linked the Harakat to a group that abducted five Western tourists in Kashmir in 1995, all of whom are presumed dead.

Other movements. Several smaller extremist groups associated with bin Laden operate in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Yemen. Sheik Mir Hamza, who signed bin Laden's fatwa, heads the Jamiat
Ulema-e-Pakistan, the Muslim Clerical Organization of Pakistan.--Kevin Whitelaw