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Bin Laden network 'plotted hundreds of attacks'
Julian Borger in Washington Thursday November 8, 2001 The Guardian
The attacks on US targets culminating in the September 11 suicide hijackings were only a fraction of the onslaught planned by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, it emerged yesterday. Over the past three years, US intelligence detected plots against US embassies in 14 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, and there were over 600 more "credible threats" of attacks. Some were thwarted by arrests or stepped up security. Others appear to have been suspended or may still be pending.
The global extent of al-Qaida's terrorist ambitions is revealed in a new book by Peter Bergen, CNN's terrorism analyst, who interviewed the Saudi fugitive in Afghanistan in 1997. The book, Holy War Inc.- Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, portrays al-Qaida as a multinational corporation with "investments" in terrorist cells all over the world. Mr Bergen argues that if Bin Laden is killed, other members will take his place, including possibly his son Mohammed, or the "eminence grise" of the organisation, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
For about a year, Bin Laden kept in touch with his empire through a computer-sized satellite telephone bought from a New York company for $7,500 in 1996, but he soon became aware his conversations were being intercepted by US satellites. Since then, Mr Bergen writes, he has been communicating by radio or in person, rendering the huge US surveillance operation largely futile.
According to the book, al-Qaida plotted attacks on three US embassies this year, in Yemen, Bangladesh and India. The Indian plot was foiled by the arrest of two men in New Delhi with six kilos of high explosive. The mastermind behind the attack, Mohamed Omar al-Harazi, was also the cell operations leader in the attack on the US Cole warship last year.
Holy War Inc. plays down the CIA's role in creating the Afghan-based Islamic terrorist groups during the 1980s. During the war against the Soviet army, Bin Laden had closer links with Saudi intelligence, Mr Bergen reports. Bin Laden was "effectively working as an arm of Saudi intelligence".
-- Jackson Brown (Jackson_Brown@deja.com), November 08, 2001