Inside Al Qaeda - Global Network Of Terror
Author : Rohan Gunaratna
Publisher : Lotus Roli
Language : English
Pages : 272 pages
ISBN : 978-81-7436-243-8
"We — with God's help — call on every Muslim who believes in God and wish-es to be rewarded to comply with God's order to kill the Americans and plun-der their money wherever and whenever they find it. We also call on the Muslim ulcma [community], leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan's US troops and the devil's supporters allying with them and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson." (Declaration of War by Osama bin Laden, together with leaders of the World Islamic Front for the Jihad Against the Jews and the Crusaders [AI-Jabhah al-Islamiyyah al-'Alamiyyah Li-Qital al-Yahud Wal-Salibiyyin], Afghanistan, February 23, 1998)
Al Qaeda is the first multinational terrorist group of the twenty-first century and it confronts the world with a new kind of threat. The per-spectives of the historian and the political scientist are both essential in understanding and addressing Al Qaeda, but they can lead to an under-estimation of the phenomenon facing us. Since the contemporary wave of terrorism began in the Middle East in 1968, no groups resembling Al Qaeda have previously emerged. Al Qaeda has moved terrorism beyond the status of a technique of protest and resistance and turned it into a global instrument with which to compete with and challenge Western influence in the Muslim world.
Al Qaeda is a worldwide movement capable of mobilising a new and hitherto unimagined global conflict. This book describes in detail the threat posed by Al Qaeda and offers a perspective with which to formulate a counter-strategy in the coming years of conflict. My book attempts to paint a broad picture of an organization whose global reach and long-term threat have been underestimated until quite recently. Over the last five years I have spent several hundred hours inter-viewing over 200 terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, in more than fifteen countries in Asia (including Central Asia), Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe.
My initial interest in studying the group we now know as Al Qaeda began with a series of visits to Pakistan and Azad Kashmir in 1993-5, when I interviewed almost all the leaders of the Kashmiri muhajidin whose ranks had been swelled by the Afghan Arabs after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. More recently I have been able to reach and speak candidly with members of Al Qaeda's penultimate leadership and its rank and file. Through my work as a consultant on terrorism to governments, I have been in contact with the authorities in over a dozen states in charge of interviewing prisoners and detainees being held because of their sus-pected network. pected association with or direct membership of Both my pre-9/11 and subsequent interviews'Phaoveffallthowed me to piece present here. together the comprehensive picture of Al Cumulatively they have also allowed me to assearle the portrait drawn below of Osama bin Laden and to emphasize his single-minded deter-mination not just to take over MAK (Maktab al Khidmat lil Mu.h.& al-Arab, or Afghan Service Bureau)/AI Qaeda but to turn it —contrary ja to the vision of Abdullah Azzam, its founder and intellectual leader — into a global terrorist front.
I have also spoken with many government specialists on Islamist terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda. My knowledge of the links between Al Qaeda and.its associate groups in the Middle East, Asia and Europe is based partly on interviews with Al Qaeda members and by reading hundreds of telephone, email and other communications. These include communication transcripts between Al Qaeda leaders and associate leaders such as those between Osarna,bin Laden and Hasan Hattab, head of the GSPC (Groupe Salafiste pour la Predication et le Combat), and between Osama's then operations chief, Abu Zubaydah, and Hashim Salamat, head of the MILF (Mom Islamic Liberation Front).
The urgency of the tunes and the degree of the threat posed by Al Qaeda have led me to set forth my conclusions in the strongest possible terms on the basis of what I have been able to learn and the patterns I have discerned from my years spent examining ter-rorist and official documents and interviewing members of terrorist organisations. The conventional wisdom among intelligence specialists was that the emerging pattern of terrorism was one based on autonomous cells act-ing independently of each other, largely because we were unaware of how AI Qaeda and other groups had cleverly reverted to one-to-one contact, primarily via couriers, as a means of keeping in touch that cir-cumvented governments' technical means of intelligence-gathering.This explains why the fact that Al Qaeda's German, British, Spanish, Dutch and Belgian cells were acting in concert was overlooked, something dis-covered only during post facto investigations into the background of Mohammad Atta and the other 9/11 conspirators.
By perpetrating the world's greatest terrorist outrage on September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda demonstrated the magnitude of the escalating threat and the sophistication of its methods. It is a pioneering operational vanguard of a global Islamist threat posing the likelihood of long term, more or less continuous conflict with the West. To manage and counter that threat, a comprehensive understanding of Al Qaeda is required, and it is the purpose of this book to provide it.
Where did Al Qaeda spring from? And why did we begin to hear about it so recently, even though Osama bin Laden has been known of for far longer? The trap to be avoided here when evaluating Al Qaeda as an organisation is the assumption that what drives terrorist groups is publicity in pursuit of their broader goal. If that were so, neatly typed communiques claiming responsibility for Al Qaeda attacks would have been sent to the press.
Until 9/11 Osama bin Laden never used the term "Al Qaeda", nor did his close cohorts. Al Qaeda is above all else a secret, almost virtual, organisation, one that denies its own existence in order to remain in the shadows. This explains why it always uses other names and identities (such as the World Islamic Front for the Jihad Against the Jews and the Crusaders) when referring to its actions, beliefs or statements, thereby keeping us guessing about its true motives, its true intentions.
Al Qaeda maintains its practice of absolute secrecy even when dealing with Islamist parties and armed groups that share its aspirations. To them too it is an enigma, a shadowy body that many of them aspire to "join" but which accepts only a tiny proportion of those eligible for enrolment, given the very strict selection criteria it imposes. Two momentous events in 1979 - the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - marked the rise of a new wave of Islamist movements which toppled the Shah of Iran and eventually drove the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.
And it was the enduring impact of the Iranian Revolution and the defeat of communism which precipitat-ed the creation of over one hundred contemporary Islamist movements in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and also in Western Europe. Its founders had painstakingly built Al Qaeda al-Sulbah (The Solid Base) for the sole purpose of creating societies founded on the strictest Islamist principles. The Palestinian-Jordanian ideologue Abdullah Azzam conceptualised Al Qaeda in 1987.
Defining its composition, aims, and purpose, he wrote in Al-Jihad, the principal journal of the Afghan Arabs: Every principle needs a vanguard to carry it forward and, while focusing its way into society, puts up with heayy tasks and enormous sacrifices. There is no ide-ology, neither earthly nor heavenly, that does not require such a vanguard that gives everything it possesses in order to achieve victory for this ideology. It car-ries the flag all along the sheer, endless and difficult path until it reaches its des-tination in the reality of life, since Allah has destined that it should make it and manifest itself.
This vanguard constitutes Al-Qa'idah al-Sulbah for the expected society Azzam — the ideological father of Al Qaeda — was the mentor of Osama bin Laden. After co-follnding the Maktab al Khidmat 111 Mujahidin al-Arab (MAK, or Afghan Service Bureau) in Peshawar,
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