Man Wants You Dead
Reveals Bombing Conspiracy Theories
Before the U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa on
August 7, 1998, a July
1998 Reader's Digest report predicted the
threat posed by international
terrorist Osama Bin Ladin, a suspect in the
explosions in Kenya and
You've probably never heard of Osama Bin Ladin,
but you should know who he is. Because ...
This Man Wants You Dead
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
The notice appeared in an Arabic newspaper
in London last February. "The
ruling to kill Americans and their allies--civilians and
military--is a duty for
every Muslim. We--with God's help--call on every Muslim to
Islamic extremists make outrageous statements every day in
Arabic-language press, most of which go unnoticed. But
this one, a fatwa
(religious order), alarmed government officials around the
world. Within days
U.S. embassies in the Middle East and Pakistan were
threatened with attack.
Government buildings in Washington, D.C., went on a rare
alert." Vehicles entering the Pentagon were searched.
Financier of Terror
U.S. officials took the death threat
seriously, sources tell Reader's Digest,
because of the reputation of the main signatory: Osama Bin
Ladin. This former
Saudi businessman was virtually unknown to Western
until just a few years ago, but today the U.S. State
Department considers him
a significant sponsor of world terrorism. Evidence points
to his connection to
persons suspected of numerous acts of violence, including:
* The 1993 bombing of New York City's World Trade Center.
* Attacks on American servicemen in Somalia, which
prompted the withdrawal
of our peacekeeping troops.
* The bombings of a Saudi National Guard training center
in Riyadh in 1995
and of Khobar Towers, an apartment complex near Dhahran,
Saudi Arabia, in
1996. Two dozen Americans died in these attacks.
Bin Ladin is a pariah in many Islamic countries, but he
operates with impunity
from a base in Afghanistan. Using huge financial
resources, he supports
international terrorist networks, encouraging others to
act while never pulling a
trigger or detonating a bomb himself.
Tall and thin, with a full beard, Osama Bin Ladin wears
long, flowing Arab
robes fringed with gold, and wraps his head in a
checkered headdress. Those who have met him say he is
extremely courteous. Despite his apparent humility, he has
become an almost
mythic figure in the Islamic world because he has dared to
stand up to two
Bin Ladin, now about 43 years old, is one of some 65
children of a Saudi
construction magnate. When family patriarch Mohammad Bin
Ladin died in
the late 1960s, his children inherited a financial empire
that today is worth an
estimated $10 billion. The Saudi Bin Ladin Group is now
run by Osama's
family, which has publicly said it does not condone his
In November 1996 Palestinian journalist Abdelbari Atwan
visited Bin Ladin in
the mountains of Afghanistan, expecting to find the lavish
camp of a man of
wealth. Instead, he spent two nights sleeping next to Bin
Ladin in a cave. "It
was freezing," Atwan says. "I reached under my camp bed
hoping to find an
extra blanket. Instead, it was crammed with Kalashnikov
rifles and mortar
What drove Bin Ladin to take up arms? Those who know him
agree: a burning
faith that sees the world in simplistic terms as a
struggle between righteous
Islam and a doomed West. It is a worldview taught to many
young Saudis. But
the teachings struck a particular chord in Bin Ladin,
reverberating with his
seeming passion for danger.
The "Afghan Arabs"
Enraged when the Soviet Union invaded Muslim
Afghanistan in December
1979, Bin Ladin went there to aid the mojahedin freedom
food and weapons, much of it with family money. A Saudi
official says Bin
Ladin helped to recruit thousands of Arabs who volunteered
for the jihad (holy
war) against the Soviets.
Early in the war the mojahedin were getting slaughtered by
gunships as they tried to bring in supplies on mules
across the mountain
passes of northern Afghanistan. Bin Ladin volunteered the
services of the
family construction firm to blast new roads through the
brought huge bulldozers," says London-based Khaled Fuawaz,
a former Bin
Ladin associate. According to Fuawaz, when Bin Ladin could
not find drivers
willing to face the Soviet gunships, he drove the
bulldozers himself. One time
he was attacked by Soviet helicopters and wounded.
Bin Ladin poured millions of dollars of his
family's cash into the war, with the
blessing of the Saudi government. He also personally led a
contingent of Arab
troops, winning a key victory against the Soviets in 1986.
By the time the
Soviet Union had pulled out of Afghanistan in February
1989, Bin Ladin was
leading a fighting force known as "Afghan Arabs," which
20,000. "Bin Ladin was like a head of state," says a Saudi
Afghan Arabs had a romantic image of him."
Hero to Outlaw
Bin ladin viewed any Western presence in the Middle East
as a threat to
Islam. After Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait,
Reader's Digest has
learned, Bin Ladin met with Saudi Defense Minister Prince
Sultan to offer his
services to the Desert Storm operation--but only if the
United States were not
"Bin Ladin spread out maps in front of Prince Sultan," a
Saudi official says.
"He had all kinds of plans for how to defeat the Iraqis
without American help.
Prince Sultan asked what he planned to do about the Iraqi
tanks, aircraft and
chemical and biological weapons. Bin Ladin said, 'We will
defeat them with
The Saudi government declined his offer, and Bin Ladin
later moved to
Sudan--but not before he cashed out of the family
business, receiving an
estimated $260 million. It is this fortune that he uses
today to prime the
In 1992 Bin Ladin's attention appears to have been
directed against Egypt.
That year, Reader's Digest has been told, an extremist
group with financial
ties to Bin Ladin sent a fax to Egypt threatening the
government of President
Hosni Mubarak, America's closest Arab ally.
"Bin Ladin focused on Egypt," says a former spokesman for
Mubarak, Mohammad Abdul Moneim, "because he knew that if
Egypt fell to
the Islamists, the whole Arab world would fall."
Bin Ladin, says the U.S. State Department, was the key
financier behind a
camp providing terrorist training to the Egyptian group.
Its members, whose
spiritual leader was the blind Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar
opposed not only Mubarak but also Westerners--particularly
Members of the group slaughtered 58 foreign tourists
visiting a temple at Luxor
in November 1997. A U.S. diplomat in Cairo told Reader's
Digest that the
planner of the attack "would have loved to get Americans"
but failed. Most of
those killed were Swiss.
Bin Ladin hasn't limited his efforts to the Middle East.
There is evidence
linking him to Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World
bombing, and to other terrorists who planned attacks on
Sources tell Reader's Digest that the federal government
is investigating Bin
Edwin angeles, a leader of a radical Islamic
group in the Philippines who
became a government informant, says that Yousef and Bin
Ladin were linked
at least as long ago as 1989. In that year, Yousef went to
the Philippines and
introduced himself as an emissary of Osama Bin Ladin, sent
to support that
country's radical Islamic movement. One of Yousef's main
contacts in Manila,
according to Angeles, was Saudi businessman Mohammad Jamal
Bin Ladin's brother-in-law. After participating in the
Trade Center bombing,
Yousef returned to the Philippines, where he plotted to
plant bombs aboard
U.S. passenger airliners in 1995.
In New York City, Sheik Rahman and others plotted attacks
on major bridges
and tunnels. During Rahman's 1995 trial, prosecutors
included Bin Ladin on a
list of nonindicted persons who "may be alleged as
Bin Ladin has not been charged.
While living in Sudan, Bin Ladin established a
employing many of his former Afghan fighters. In the
spring of 1996, according
to Pakistani government officials, one of Bin Ladin's
bodyguards attempted to
assassinate him. After the attempt failed, Bin Ladin flew
to Afghanistan on
board his unmarked, private C-130 military transport
plane. There, according to
Pakistani officials, Bin Ladin established a base
southwest of Jalalabad, under
the protection of the Afghan government.
A few weeks after the attempt on Bin Ladin's life, a
powerful explosion ripped
through the Khobar Towers complex near Dhahran, Saudi
Arabia, killing 19
U.S. servicemen. Bin Ladin, who called this "a laudable
kind of terrorism,"
publicly denied participating. But a knowledgeable Saudi
dissident in London
has told Reader's Digest that the six men whom the Saudi
arrested for the bombing all trained in Afghanistan. "If
they trained there,"
declared the dissident, "they have a connection to Bin
In August 1996, and later in November, Bin Ladin announced
that he and his
followers would stage terrorist attacks against U.S.
troops in Saudi Arabia to
force an American withdrawal. The Digest has learned that
after Bin Ladin
called for this jihad, as many as eight attacks against
U.S. military targets in
the Middle East were attempted. These were foiled by an
intelligence effort, which included enticing a top
financial aide to Bin Ladin to
Today, the State Department says, terrorist
organizations that have received
support from Bin Ladin continue to operate around the
world. In March 1998
Brussels police arrested seven men and confiscated a cache
The men are believed to be part of the Armed Islamic Group
(GIA), which is
responsible for the slaughter of thousands in Algeria over
the last six years.
One knowledgeable source says GIA has received financial
support from Bin
Ladin. In May, eight suspected GIA members were arrested
Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad, a religious scholar in London
with ties to Bin
Ladin, told The Digest that Bin Ladin is funding armed
Muslim groups in
Albania, Chechnya, Bosnia, Nigeria and Algeria. "We are
sending British and
Ameri-can Muslims to train in camps run by Bin Ladin,"
Bakri says. "This is
an international army--Mohammed's army--to combat
The Coming Crusade
The groups obeying Bin Ladin are hard to
track down and difficult to penetrate.
Bin Ladin: Holy Terror
"These small groups, which may be just five or ten
persons, can never be
eradicated," says Saad al-Faghi, a Saudi dissident living
in London. "They
believe they belong to the jihad, not by command but by
faith. They are very
Today Bin Ladin lives in Afghanistan with three wives and
42 other Arab
families in a 30-house complex. Reader's Digest has been
told that Bin Ladin
has bought heavy weapons on the black market and is
training new fighters at
his camp in the north.
He is also seeking to widen his alliances. The February
1998 London fatwa
against Americans was issued under the banner of the
Front and signed by radical Islamic leaders in Egypt,
Bin Ladin's coldblooded invitation to murder is taken
seriously by American
diplomats. "If they want to attack us, they can," says a
U.S. diplomat in
Pakistan. "We're all soft targets." But U.S. officials are
not the only ones at
risk. In November 1997, for example, four American
oil-company workers were
gunned down in Pakistan. The murders were just two days
after the conviction
in a Fairfax, Va., court of Pakistani Mir Aimal Kasi, who
went on a 1993
shooting spree outside CIA headquarters, killing two CIA
For more than a decade, Bin Ladin has reached across the
terrorism. As his money flows, so does innocent blood.
"Having borne arms against the Russians in Afghanistan,"
Bin Ladin has
declared, "we think our battle with the Americans will be
easy by comparison.
We are now more determined to carry on until we see the
face of God."
"Bin Ladin has plenty of manpower and explosives,"
declares Saad al-Faghi.
And the world has learned that when a pronouncement is
uttered in the name
of Osama Bin Ladin, the threat is anything but idle.
VXtreme streaming video version of this story
Also, read Ken Timmerman's story, "Who Bombed the
Embassies?", in The Wall
Street Journal, 8/11/98
(trade center) © joe tabacca/ap wide world
(afghan rebels) © pierre issot-sergent/gamma
(mubarak) © mohamed el-dakhakhny/sipa press
(body of an american soldier in the streets of
mogadisciu) © keith
(yousef) © sygma
(dhahran, saudi arabia) © greg marinovich/ap
(pakistan) © b.k. bangash/ap photo
(luxor, egypt) © el dakhakhny/sipa press
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