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Have we overestimated Osama's sway? - Daily News Egypt

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Have we overestimated Osama's sway?

The only two major terrorist operations for which Khaled Sheikh Mohammed claimed no credit in his recently released testimony before the Military Tribunal at Guantanamo Bay were the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the October 12, 2000 attack against the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of …


The only two major terrorist operations for which Khaled Sheikh Mohammed claimed no credit in his recently released testimony before the Military Tribunal at Guantanamo Bay were the August 7, 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the October 12, 2000 attack against the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden. The embassy bombings caused the death of hundreds of people, brought Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda to international attention, and resulted in the FBI placing Bin Laden on its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. So, how could it be that the evil genius who claimed his first terror attack as far back as February 1993, namely the first World Trade Center bombing, had nothing to do with the operation that made Bin Laden famous, or the attack against the USS Cole which took place only 11 months before the 9/11 attacks? How is it that a man who declared that he had sworn allegiance to Bin Laden and was “military operational commander of all [Al-Qaeda’s] foreign operations around the world somehow skipped the two only major Al-Qaeda attacks before September 11, 2001? And bear in mind that Bin Laden appeared not to have been involved in the first World Trade Center attack. The ex-head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency, Abdul Rahman Malek, told me he never had the slightest evidence of Osama Bin Laden’s implication in that crime. As for the assassination of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl, which took place five months after 9/11, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed declared it was “not related to Al-Qaeda. Rather, after alleging that Pearl was in contact with the Mossad and the CIA, he indicated the murder involved the Pakistani “Mujahideen group. Should Sheikh Mohammed’s efforts to deny Bin Laden’s involvement be interpreted to mean that he had returned to being an “independent terrorist after 9/11? And what is this Mujahideen group that he mentioned in his testimony? Lending credence to this view, Sheikh Mohammed indicates elsewhere in his testimony that he was a “responsible participant in finances. This implies perhaps that he operated on his own, and financed terrorist operations from his own war chest. If true, this would put him in the role of employer, not merely that of Al-Qaeda operative. Indeed, some Islamist sources have never accepted his title as “operative, with some even insisting that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed was not a member of Al-Qaeda. The same sources point out that he, not Bin Laden, was the first to attack the United States and, more important, the first to call for a “war on America (“the distant enemy in Islamist literature, as opposed to the “near enemy, as Muslim and Arab regimes are called). His jihadist “prestige, thus, was higher than Bin Laden’s. Why should Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who first mounted an attack against the World Trade Center and who, sources claim, had a more sophisticated network, have agreed to join Bin Laden, who had achieved nothing memorable until 1998? The career of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed remains vague, including the years he spent in Qatar and the circumstances of his later arrest, it is claimed, at a house in Rawalpindi’s military cantonment area. Who is Khaled Sheikh Mohammed? It is difficult to be precise, and much information comes from hearsay. However, some sources suggest that he had close ties to the Pakistani intelligence services as far back as the period when Hamid Gul was director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate. It is, also, claimed that Sheikh Mohammed’s connections with the ISI were so high level that Bin Laden had to ask him to intercede in his favor with the Pakistanis. It has also been claimed that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed headed his own outfit, the Baluchistan Liberation Army. But, if so, why should ISI deal with someone who wanted to break Baluchistan province away from Pakistan? Perhaps because it was interested in destabilization operations in Iran’s Baluchistan province, in the same way the ISI tolerates Kashmiri groups fighting against India. In fact, in 1994 Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew, Ramzi Youssef, organized an attack against the tomb of Imam Ali Reza in Mashad in Iran. Indian analyst B. Raman recently claimed that the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi took part in that operation. Sources seem to agree with Sheikh Mohammed’s claims that he was “responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z, claiming he had “sold the idea to Osama Bin Laden, rather than being recruited by him as “operational director of the attack. The problem with his revelations before the Guantanamo Bay tribunal, however, is that the shadow of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed looks even longer than that of Al-Qaeda. His testimony generates more questions than answers, and his past indicates far more complexity in his relationship with Osama bin Laden than previously thought. Does that mean we must be more careful in assuming that Al-Qaeda is behind every attack in the world? Pierre Akelis webmaster of the metransparent.com Web site, which publishes articles and commentaries on the Middle East and Islamic issues. This commentary was written for THE DAILY STAR.

Topics: Wael Ghonim

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