The US has released a trove of documents seized when special forces stormed Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan in 2011 that include references to unfulfilled plots such as an attack on the US embassy in Moscow.
Among the documents captured at the hideout in Abbottabad, where the man behind the September 11 attacks was killed, are appraisals of terrorist efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, an eclectic list of books owned by the terrorist leader and an application form to join his group, al-Qaeda.
The trove of captured material, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, underscored bin Laden’s preoccupation with attacking US and Western targets.
That is in contrast to the emphasis on capturing territory and establishing a caliphate in the Middle East that has been the prime goal so far of the IS group that broke off from al-Qaeda and has which seized a swath of Syria and Iraq.
A document labelled ‘Report on the external operations’ expresses frustration that several plots had failed because of “bad luck and God wasn’t on our side.”
Those included targets in “Russia (exploding the gas line or the American embassy),” and the UK, as well as Americans in Denmark, where the letter said a European group “formed of 3 brothers” was sent to carry out an operation.
The document said terrorists should turn to “new methods like using house knifes, Gas or Gasoline or diesel tanks and other means, such as airplanes, trains, cars as killing tools.”
It said the priority is “putting the Jews first” as targets and that there was progress in “co-operating with two groups who are working in the same fields.”
The release of documents, many of them unsigned and some previously disclosed in court cases, comes after an extensive interagency review. It contains a list of non-classified material found in and around the compound. A second list includes documents that are now declassified, including diatribes on the “despotism of big money” and thoughts on the German economy.
The al-Qaeda membership application drafted by the group’s “security committee” asked would-be terrorists for information, “Any hobbies or pastimes?” how much they had studied the Koran, what experience they had in chemistry or communications, and whether they ever had travelled to Pakistan. It also asked applicants whether they “wish to execute a suicide operation” and for information on a contact person “in case you became a martyr.”
A category titled ‘Bin Laden’s Bookshelf’ includes religious documents, tracts by other extremist groups, and English-language media articles that show bin Laden kept a close eye on Washington political currents. The terrorist leader had dozens of publicly available US government documents, including The 9/11 Commission Report. Several copies of the magazine Foreign Policy were found in the compound, with publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Popular Science, US News and World Report. The report also listed English-language books Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast. Also found: a written guide to playing Delta Force: Xtreme 2, the multiplayer videogame that depicts military combat scenarios.
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