The Deadly Fanatic; the War on Terrorism

Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), October 8, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Deadly Fanatic; the War on Terrorism


ABOVE all other objectives, the strike against Afghanistan is designed to hit back at one man - Osama bin Laden.

The Saudi-born dissident has been identified by both the United States and Britain as the prime suspect in the terror attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

But the Americans' interest in bin Laden predates those atrocities by many years - originally in his capacity as an ally against the Russians, but more recently as a fanatical and deadly foe.

Bin Laden developed his guerrilla skills in the 1980s heading up Arab fighters, funded by the US's Central Intelligence Agency, who fought alongside US-supported Afghan guerrillas against Soviet forces occupying Afghanistan.

His argument with the US - the authorities there have a five million dollar (pounds 3.5 million) bounty on his head - stemmed from the deployment of US military forces in Saudi Arabia during the 1990-91 Gulf crisis, prompted by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Bin Laden viewed their presence as a desecration of the land of Islam.

Like many others in the Arab world, he bitterly resents too, America's long-standing support for Israel, which he regards as a major contribution to the sufferings of the Palestinians.

Western intelligence agencies blamed bin Laden for a series of terrorist attacks long before the latest, stunning outrages.

The US authorities linked him to the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre - the principal target of this month's attack - which killed six people and injured more than 1,000. Then, as now, he denied involvement.

They identified him also as the prime suspect in bombings which killed 24 US servicemen in the Saudi cities of Riyadh and Khobar in 1995 and 1996.

In August 1996 bin Laden formalised his campaign against America by issuing a fatwa, or religious decree, that US military personnel should be killed.

The most audacious attack attributed to him - prior to last month's incident - was the 1998 twin bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people and wounded 4,000.

His bitter battle with the American people intensified after August 1998 when, in retaliation for the African bombings, the then US President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missile strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan, saying the targets were specifically linked to bin Laden.

More recently, US officials suspected bin Laden's network of involvement in the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship in Yemen. Seventeen US servicemen died.

The depth of bin Laden's hatred of America was evident in a March 1997 interview for CNN, conducted in eastern Afghanistan, in which he said that US civilians would be targeted inside their own country as part of a "holy war". …

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