Daily Archives: 2007-01-28 06:03:51 GMT+0000

Part 4 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Al-Qaeda’s “mature years”: 1996-2001
Bin Laden provided “a central focus for many . . . disparate elements. This was not a formation of a huge and disciplined group, but a temporary focus of many different strands within modern Islamic militancy on Afghanistan and what, in terms of resources and facilities, bin Laden and his three dozen close associates were able to provide there.” (p.12)

The resources he offered: training, expertise, money, munitions, safe haven. He was providing a safe haven and “department store” array of support for different groups who had been looking for some such “service” since the end of the Afghan war.

The 3 elements of al-Qaeda

The al-Qaeda hardcore (approx 12+100) consisted of:

  • The dozen or so associates who had stayed with him since the 1980’s.
  • Pre-eminent militants who had difficulties operating in their own countries came to join bin Laden for the safe haven and the resources he could offer: recruits, money, ideas, knowledge.
  • Many of these were Afgan war veterans. Many had fought in Bosnia and Chechnya.
  • They totalled about 100.
  • Many had at some stage taken an oath of allegiance to bin Laden.
  • They acted as trainers and administrators in Afghanistan.
  • Occasionally they were sent overseas to seek recruits; more rarely, to carry out a terrorist operation.
  • But they were not a monolithic group: among them are significant divergences of opinioin over methods, tactics, political and religious beliefs.

2nd element: a wider circle consisting of:

(to be contd.)

Part 3 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

1993 New York World Trade Center bombing
Ahmed Ajaj was detained for this attack and in his bag was a manual titled “Al Qaeda”. American investigators translated this (correctly) as “the basic rules”. It was not a group.

American intelligence reports in the 1990’s do not use the term “al Qaeda” in any of their reports about Middle Eastern extremists. After the 1993 NY bombing FBI investigators knew of bin Laden but only “as one name among thousands”.

During the 1995 trials of the WTC bombers bin Laden was mentioned by prosecutors once, but al-Qaeda was not ever mentioned at all.

1997/8 CIA and State Dept memos
al-Qaeda is mentioned only once and only in passing as “an operational hub, predominantly for like-minded Sunni extemists”.

1996 bin Laden returns to Afghanistan
With 50 to 100 experienced militants bin Laden was able to build his first real terrorist group. But it was far from being “a coherent and structured terrorist organisation with cells everywhere.” (p.11)

1998, FBI “creates” the al Qaeda terrorist organization
In August 1998 bin Laden was implicated in the double bombings of American East African embassies. Clinton retaliated by bombing “the network of radical groups affiliated with and funded by Usama bin Laden, perhaps the pre-eminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today.” (p.11)

FBI sought to prosecute bin Laden, but the relevant laws were designed to deal with tightly organized and structured criminal gangs to which membership was clear cut. Bin Laden was part of a loose network or politico-religious movement where reponsibility for any single act is difficult to pin down. But if bin Laden could be made the member of a structured organization he could be more successfully prosecuted. It is from this time on that FBI documents now speak of a tightly organized al Qaeda organization to which members must swear an oath of allegiance. This completely misrepresented the actual situation but was legally convenient for a prosecution to succeed.

Part 2 of “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror”

continuing my notes from Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror” . . . .

Bin Laden enters
Sometime between 1988 and 1989 bin Laden set up a militant group in Peshawar. It consisted of no more than a dozen men. The group was inspired by the teachings of Azzam and were distressed by the disintegration of the international forces who had come to aid the Afghan resistance after the Soviets were expelled. There were scores of such small groups forming at this time in Afghanistan, bouyed with the same hopes after feeling they had defeated the mighty Soviets, had the same concerns and dreams of uniting once again all those who had come together, this time to work together to fight corrupt regimes ruling Moslem peoples elsewhere in the Muslim world and restore an ideal society. Larger groups who formed dedicated themselves to attempting to overthrow their local governments.

Some activists in Peshawar at the time say they knew of a group attached to bin Laden around 1990 known as “al-Qaeda” — but others say they never heard of the term. The 11 volume “Encyclopedia of the Jihad” compiled in Pakistan between 1991 and 1993 never mentions al-Qaeda although it does thank Azzam’s group, Maktab al-Khidamat (offices of services).

and departs
1989 bin Laden left Pakistan for Saudi-Arabia (his homeland)

1990 bin Laden and other Afghan vets offered to form an army to help protect Saudi Arabia in response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait

bin Laden’s offer was rejected so he spent his time attempting to reform Saudi Arabia

1991 bin Laden fled Saudi Arabia, via Pakistan, to Sudan — until 1996.

In Sudan he was just as interested in arboriculture and road construction as in creating an international army of Islamic militants. His own group was still no more than approx a dozen. He was still reliant on larger militias for resources and know-how. He was not connected with any of the attacks that occurred during this period, 1991-1996.

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 4-Tables

Have now completed reading Chapter 4, Palestinian Jewish Names. Had feared it would be more technical and complex than the effort was worth but as questions arose I got drawn into far more than I ever expected. There is much more of interest in this chapter than I anticipated and look forward to writing up my notes on it.

With magical electronic spreadsheet technology and open source conversion software I have been able to prepare my own tables extracted from Bauckham’s — which on first glance look to me like they invite a different hypothesis from B’s for the selections of names. The hypothesis I am thinking of has been suggested several times by others already although I understand it has not found ready widespread support in mainstream scholarship. In a few days I hope to re-emerge from real life work and get my commentary on chapter 4 up here. Meanwhile, for those who like tables here is what I will be basing some of my commentary on….. (They are all pdf files.)

Names in Mark

Download (PDF, 41KB)

Names in Matthew

Download (PDF, 41KB)

Names in Luke

Download (PDF, 42KB)

Names in John

Download (PDF, 40KB)

Names in Acts

Download (PDF, 42KB)

There appear to be some errors in the tables in B’s book which I have not always corrected, and no doubt there will be some errors in my own. I also am aware that I have not been consistent in listing only those names B selects according to his criteria. And I also realize I have listed Simon Peter as both Simon and Peter. But feel free to point out any obvious errors and oversights.