Al Qaeda hoped ‘angry Irish’ might turn to Islam

Al Qaeda discussed trying to convert Irish people to Islam because of their disenchantment with the Catholic Church over the child abuse scandals and also anger over the economic crisis.

Details of the plan emerged in a letter from American al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn to an unidentified recipient. The correspondence was found in the house in Pakistan where al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was shot dead by US forces last year.

“I was — in response to those directives and after consulting brother Ubayd — starting to prepare a message to the Irish and I started searching for the information and materials necessary for that to be collected,” Gadahn wrote.

“This was after I noticed the sympathy of the Irish people to the Palestinian issue, and the soft treatment by the Irish judicial system of the Muslims accused of terrorism, and also not participating with its troops in Bush’s crusade wars.

“Also, what helped to prepare the message was the last economic crisis that affected Ireland a lot, thus forcing its youth to look for sources of living in the outside. The other matter is the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others. The people there are moving towards secularism, after it was the most religious of atheist Europe, and why do not we face them with Islam?”

The letter was written in late Jan 2011.

It forms part of a selection of documents seized in last year’s raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan house that have been posted online by the US army’s Combating Terrorism Centre.

In letters from his last hideout, bin Laden fretted about dysfunction in his terrorist network and crumbling trust from Muslims he wished to incite against their government and the West.

The documents show what bin Laden saw as bumbling within his organisation and its terrorist allies.

“I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made,” bin Laden wrote in 2010.

“In doing so, we shall reclaim, God willing, the trust of a large segment of those who lost their trust in the jihadis.”

Until the end, bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots, however improbable, to kill US leaders.

He wished especially to target airplanes carrying Gen David Petraeus and President Barack Obama, reasoning that an assassination would elevate an “utterly unprepared” vice-president Joe Biden into the presidency and plunge the US into crisis.

But an US analysts’ report released along with bin Laden’s correspondence describes him as upset over the inability of spin-off terrorist groups to win public support for their cause, their unsuccessful media campaigns and poorly planned plots that, in bin Laden’s view, killed too many innocent Muslims.

Al Qaeda’s relationship with Iran, a point of deep interest to the US government, was rough.

Bin Laden wrote that “controlling children” was one of the keys to hiding in cities, as he did for years while US forces searched Pakistan’s rugged frontier.

He encouraged his followers in hiding to teach their children the local language and not let them out of their homes “except for extreme necessity like medical care.”

The correspondence suggests that al Qaeda carefully monitored US cable news networks and generally didn’t like what it saw.

“We can say that there is no single channel that we could rely on for our messages,” Gadahn wrote, although he described ABC as “all right, actually it could be one of the best channels as far as we are concerned.”

He complained that Fox News “falls into the abyss, as you know, and lacks neutrality.” CNN, he said, “seems to be in co-operation with the government more than the others except Fox News, of course.”

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