Bin Laden paranoid and frustrated in last days, letters show


THE LETTER is written in the plaintive, irritable tone of an exasperated and slightly demotivated middle manager under pressure from the boss to deal with a recalcitrant employee.

“Dear Brother Adnan, I also asked you in previous letters to quickly write to Karrumi, Abu Omar and their people with decisive, purposeful guidance, because I am worried about the brothers making political gaffes,” the author grumbles.

Worse, no one was respecting him or the authority he represented. “I wrote to them myself and chastised them and came down on them fairly hard,” the letter continues, but their behaviour was “continuing”.

The letter, written by a close associate of Osama bin Laden – on the orders of the al-Qaeda chief – was published yesterday by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US military academy of West Point. Sixteen other documents were also put online, all of which were seized by American special forces in the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

Together they provide perhaps the most comprehensive insight into the senior ranks of the world’s most famous terrorist groups. The picture they paint is not, however, that of a well-oiled organisation. In his last months alive, bin Laden appears increasingly paranoid and frustrated, confined to a three-storey house with three wives, children and grandchildren and cut off from effective day-to-day management of his group.

Elements of the documents had already been trailed by an administration eager to show that bin Laden and the organisation he founded in 1988 were suffering serious problems even before the raid a year ago. They show bin Laden still committed to a campaign of violence but so concerned by an apparent loss of support in the Muslim world that he considered a major rebranding of al-Qaeda, to allow it to better exploit the Arab spring revolts. A month before he died, bin Laden described the Arab spring uprisings as a “tremendous event” but clearly felt that al-Qaeda had been marginalised. To remedy this, he suggested a media campaign to incite “people who have not yet revolted and exhort them to rebel against the rulers”, one communication reveals.

One suggestion from al-Qaeda’s sycophantic media specialist – probably the American militant Adam Gadahn – was to give an interview to British journalist Robert Fisk or a sympathetic TV channel.

Bin Laden’s overriding concern appears to have been to keep the various groups calling themselves al-Qaeda from committing atrocities that would alienate local communities. “A revolutionary movement today needs more than just the military might to topple a government or control a country . . . [it] needs to have the resources in place to meet the needs and demands of the society,” he told the leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In others he frequently cites the example of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which lost popular support following a campaign of violence against Shia Iraqis and any Sunnis who did not recognise their authority. Bin Laden was apparently so concerned at the potential damage to the “al-Qaeda” brand that he was reluctant to accept a pledge of allegiance from leaders of the Al-Shabab group in Somalia, which he saw as indisciplined, indiscriminate in their violence and lacking popular support, a letter from August 2010 reveals.

Directives were also sent to Pakistani Taliban groups suggesting guidelines for dealing with ransoms. “We are sending the attached shortlist on what is acceptable and unacceptable on the subject of kidnapping and receiving money,” a letter from a subordinate peremptorily informs its recipient.

Nor, it appears, was bin Laden devoid of professional jealousy. On hearing of a recommendation that Anwar al-Awlaqi, the English-speaking Yemeni-based militant whose profile was rising rapidly, should be appointed head of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, the boss, with icy politeness, asked for the younger man’s CV.

The business of waging global jihad often seems to be little more than mundane logistics. There are the condolences to be sent out to associates of dead militants, technical points of Islamic law to elucidate to recalcitrant associates and orders to be given on precautions to be taken against drones.

Plans for spectacular attacks continued to be made, but they look more and more aspirational. In late May 2010, bin Laden tells Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, his long-suffering chief of staff, that he had asked his predecessor, recently killed by a drone, to prepare cells in Pakistan and Afghanistan “with the mission of anticipating and spotting the visits of Obama or [Gen David] Petraeus to Afghanistan or Pakistan to target the aircraft of either one of them.”

Then of course there is the family to look after. Bin Laden says he would prefer to personally edit a video recorded by his son Saad, shortly before the latter’s death in an airstrike in 2009, and that pictures of his son’s corpse should “not to be put in Al-Sahab [media wing] archive”.

As for his son Hamza, currently about 21, his father appears unaware of his exact whereabouts but concerned for his safety. “Make sure to tell Hamza that I am of the opinion that he needs to get out of Waziristan [the area of Pakistan close to the Afghan border where many drone attacks were targeted] if he is there, and he should not go there if he is not there,” he says in a letter to al-Rahman in October 2010.

Bin Laden remained confident he would not be found. In another letter to al-Rahman he writes: “It is proven the American technology and its modern systems cannot arrest a mujahed [Islamic freedom fighter] if he does not commit a security error that leads them to him.” The letter is dated April 26th, 2011, just under a week before he was killed. – (Guardian service)

Bin-Laden urged to reach out to Irish possibility of converting disenchanted Catholics raised’

Osama bin Laden was urged by a fellow leading al-Qaeda member to send a message to the Irish people persuading them to support Islam.

According to new declassified documents seized from his hideout in Pakistan following his death last year, bin Laden was advised that there was a possibility of converting Irish people because of their disenchantment with the Catholic Church and anger over the economic crisis.

Among the reasons outlined as to why the Irish might be open to Islam were the peoples sympathy towards Palestinians and “the soft treatment of the judicial system to Muslims accused of terrorist acts”.

The Combating Terrorism Center, a privately funded research base at the US Military Academy at West Point, posted a number of declassified documents belonging to bin Laden on its website yesterday.

They were taken in the raid on his house in Abbottabad last May in which he was killed by US forces.

Among the documents is a letter from the American al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn to an unknown recipient in January 2011, which lays out reasons for reaching out to Irish people.

The document, which highlights the reasons for issuing a call to the Irish people, notes that Ireland was not a participant in “Bush’s Crusade wars”, but also adds that the country had been part of an EU-wide force engaged in training the Somali army.

It also speculates on the impact of the clerical child abuse scandal and the economic crisis on Ireland.

“What helped to prepare the message was the last economic crisis that affected Ireland a lot, thus forcing its youth to look for sources of living in the outside,” writes Gadahn.

“The other matter is the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others,” he adds.

The document says that Irish people, “who were the most religious of atheist Europe”, are moving towards secularism.

“Why do not we face them with Islam?” asks Gadahn.

He goes on to suggest preparing a similar message to Catholics living in Arab regions calling them to Islam and cautioning them against co-operating with “invader enemies”.

“Catholics were historically the prominent enemies of the Jews, among the other Christians.

“They were also the original enemies to the Evangelist Protestant who were the vanguard of the Crusades.

“Their public in general, these days, is more sympathetic and understanding of the Muslims, than other Protestant and Orthodox Christians,” he says. CHARLIE TAYLOR