Washington. Osama bin Laden was fixated on attacking US targets and pressured al Qaeda groups to heal local rivalries and focus on that cause, according to documents the United States says were seized in his hideout in Pakistan and released on Wednesday.
The documents published by US intelligence also contained details of purported negotiations between al Qaeda, its allies in the Pakistani Taliban and representatives of Pakistani intelligence, and what seemed to be an al Qaeda job application.
A July 2010 letter showed that Osama pressed al Qaeda in Yemen, one of the group’s more active affiliates, to make peace with the government and focus on America.
Osama’s view was that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) ought to sign a truce with Yemeni authorities or arrange an accommodation in which Yemeni authorities would leave the group alone “in exchange for focusing on America.”
“The purpose is to focus on striking inside America and its interest abroad, especially oil producing countries, to agitate public opinion and to force US to withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq,” according to a summary of the letter by an Osama associate identified as “Atiyyah.”
It said the associate recommended “extra security measures” for Anwar al Awlaki, a US-born radical preacher who became one of AQAP’s principal strategists and spokesman, and also that Awlaki should be required to “change his way of life.”
Awlaki had served as an imam at a mosque in a Virginia suburb of Washington, which was attended by two militants who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He fled to Yemen after the attacks and was killed in 2011 by a CIA drone strike.
The documents released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were part of a cache seized by US commandos who conducted the May 2011 raid on Osama’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when Osama was killed.
A document of several pages, which the United States says was printed on stationery carrying a watermark reading “The Security Committee – al Qaeda Organization,” appeared to be a blank job application form for would-be al Qaeda members.
It said applicants should “please answer the required information accurate and truthfully” and “please write clearly and legibly.”
It asked when an applicant had arrived “in the land of Jihad” how much of the Koran they had memorized, which sheikhs or Muslim dignitaries they knew, which countries they had visited, how many passports they possessed, and whether they were interested in carrying out a “suicide operation.”
Also seized were official US passport application forms, formal US indictments of al Qaeda-related figures, US government accounts of al Qaeda’s organization, and details of the US Embassy in Pakistan’s “Toys for Tots” program.
English-language books seized included “A Brief Guide to Understanding Islam,” “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” “Black Box Voting, Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,” “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” and “Military Intelligence Blunders.”
There were also copies of many American media articles, including “Is al-Qaeda Just Bush’s Boogeyman?” from the Los Angeles Times in January 2005, and a piece in Newsweek magazine “on hawks and doves on Iraq within the Bush Administration.”
Pakistani intelligence links
One document dated July 2010 addressed to “Abu Abdullah,” which is one of Osama’s noms de guerre, from an operative named Mahmud indicated links between al Qaeda and Pakistan’s intelligence services, which Pakistan has repeatedly denied.
It said that after al Qaeda leaked information that it was planning “large-scale destructive operations in Pakistan,” but had then “halted the operations in an attempt to calm the situation and absorb the pressure from the Americans,” Pakistani intelligence “began sending people to us.”
“They sent messages to us via some of the Pakistani Jihadist groups that they are comfortable with. … One of their messengers came to us conveying a message for us from the intelligence leadership … saying that they wanted to talk to us as Al Qaeda.”
Mahmud asks Osama whether the “Pakistanis are serious or are they just playing with us?”
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the release of the documents followed a rigorous review by US government agencies as required by the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act.
Family reunion plans
The documents also show that just one month before Osama was killed in May 2011, Mahmud tried to reunite him with a beloved son, Hamza, who had been held under house arrest in Iran.
In a message dated April 2011 the al Qaeda operative wrote to Osama describing efforts he was making to smuggle his son, one of many children of the al Qaeda leader, to meet with him.
“I have tried to find a way to send him to you on the main road, but I was not able to find one due to the intensified security procedures and searches,” Mahmud wrote.
Hamza and other family members, including his mother Khairiyah, Osama’s third wife, spent years in Iran, where they fled after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and subsequent US military operation against al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
In a message to his father dated July 2009, Hamza lamented that he “was separated from you when I was a small child, not yet 13. … You might not recognize me when you meet me, as my features have changed.”
“But what truly makes me sad,” Hamza added, “is the Mujahidin legions have marched and I have not joined them.”
In his November 2010 letter, Mahmud described Hamza as “very sweet and good,” but added that he appeared to have become depressed.
“He comes back to me asking me that he should be trained and participated in giving. He does not want to be treated with favoritism because he is the son of ‘someone’… I promised him to plan some safe training for him: firing arms and with various weapons,” Mahmud wrote.
US officials said it was unclear if Hamza ever got a chance to see his father before the US raid. A US official said he did not know where Hamza was today, or if he was even still alive.
He is not believed to have been at the Abbottabad house when the raid took place, although a number of other relatives were there.
The documents can be read here.
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