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Expert points to strong evidence of Bin Laden presence in country

Al Qaida expert tells Gulf News he has no doubts that wanted Al Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden either visited Yemen or is actually based there.

  • By Manal Alafrangi, Opinion Editor
  • Published: 00:00 November 3, 2010
  • Gulf News

Osama Bin Laden
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Osama Bin Laden's relation with Yemen is very strong.
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Dubai: "Yemen has become the base for Al Qaida organisation in the Arabian peninsula" according to Abdul Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of the London-based newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi and an expert on Al Qaida being one of the few journalists to have spent time with Osama Bin Laden.

"I have no doubts that Osama either visited Yemen or is actually based there," Atwan told Gulf News in an interview.

"When I met him in Tora Bora [in November 1996] I asked him, ‘One of these days you will be kicked out of Afghanistan like you were from Sudan. Have you considered an alternative?' His answer was Yemen because ‘its mountains are like Tora Bora's and the country will embrace me and will be warm towards me'."

Atwan says he was amazed then that one of Bin Laden's security advisors, who was part of his entourage had asked him to omit this piece of information from his writings because Bin Laden shouldn't reveal his future plans.

Another incident which confirms this, Atwan says, is when he was visited by Ahmad Bin Jashe, a Yemeni tribal chief, in his London office who told him that Bin Laden made contact with him and sent an envoy to explore the possibilities of Bin Laden moving to Yemen-prior to 9/11.

What's interesting, Atwan maintains, is that six months before 9/11, Bin Laden sent an envoy to Yemen to find him a bride and indeed he married Amal Al Sada'a (from Ta'az) and she delivered a baby girl post 9/11.

Bin Laden's relation with Yemen is very strong. Not only is Hadramout his ancestral home but also most of his entourage were from Yemen (including his driver, chef, body guards…).

Challenges

Yemen today is faced with major challenges. Atwan says the country is now a semi-failed state and he believes it offers the best environment for Al Qaida to set base there.

The latest incident to highlight Yemen's fragile state occurred last week when bombs were found on two cargo planes and traced to the country.

Atwan says the Americans, by exaggerating the phenomenon of these courier bombs, are aiming to set up a military base in Yemen and they want to have their troops there to control the marine routes in the Arabian Sea and Bab Al Mandeb Straits — which is a hotspot.

"If Al Qaida manages to set up a strong base in Yemen, it will be easier to disturb the oil and the business routes and this could be one of the incentives for the US," Atwan explained.

Where does Al Qaida stand today? According to Atwan, it is much stronger today than 10 years ago. Back then, Al Qaida had one address: Tora Bora. Today, it's turned into a franchise.

Moreover, Atwan argues the US' war on terrorism benefited Al Qaida and helped it to expand. "Al Qaida is now close to the oil routes and in the heart of the Arab world; that is, its natural environment." The group is very close to Europe (vis a vis its North Africa bases) and has a huge Muslim reserve in Europe (10 million Muslims). This, says Atwan, is bound to strengthen it.

But what are Al Qaida's objectives? If we are to assume that Al Qaida is behind those booby trapped parcels, this means it is highly advanced and is managing to wreak havoc all over the world.

Spread fear

"On the one hand, its goal is to spread fear. On the other, it is to manipulate the publicity," says Atwan who adds, "Bin Laden loves publicity".

But that's not to say that Al Qaida is functioning without problems. Atwan argues there's definitely confusion within the organisation. "Osama and [his right hand man Ayman] Al Zawahiri are not in control of all their members… There's middle ground field commanders who adopted the Al Qaida ideology in order to drain the West financially and morally."

Has Al Qaida been successful thus far? Al Qaida managed to partly "bankrupt the West when it comes to the war in Afghanistan," and Wikileaks documents show $3 trillion-$5 trillion (Dh11 trillion-18 trillion) is the cost of the ongoing war, Atwan said. Moreover, Al Qaida is making money by kidnapping Westerners and getting ransom. Spain paid them five million euros to release two people. This means "for the first time, European governments are negotiating with Al Qaida and offering them money," he adds.

Bin Laden's political achievements are highlighted by the fact that Al Qaida forced Spain to pull out from Iraq, by giving them an ultimatum, and is now applying the same tactic to France: pull out from Afghanistan and end the Burqa ban "in order to remain safe."

As for what the solution is for Yemen, Atwan says there needs to be a long term plan and a strategy and not just a reaction. "The West must look at the problems of the region; education, development and modernisation," he says, pointing out that Yemen is one of the 20 poorest countries in the world.

Comments (15)

  1. Added 19:34 November 3, 2010

    its another propagandist reason for the US to invade Yemen. i doubt those printer bombs originating from Yemen. It never happened before until the US army set foot in the Yemen soil. Any sane unbiased person will understand the nature of these findings.

    nazem, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 18:47 November 3, 2010

    So what! Who cares where OBL is? Truly who cares? We have more to worry about in our daily lives than the whereabouts of a man who has been dead for nearly 4 years now. Come on Media people isn't anyone going to ever get to grips that the Marvel Comics super-nasty has gone?

    abu bassam, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 16:34 November 3, 2010

    What about the news that Osama died due to illness, what about the news that Osama is in Pakistan, now what is this about Osama is in Yemen? Whatever the agenda behind this US should not start harrashing the poor citizens of Yemen now unless they have full evedience that Osama is in Yemen. May Allah (SWT) Guide all peoples of this world to the right path. Ameen

    Shaikh Masih Al Deen, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 15:52 November 3, 2010

    What does the US think that everybody is a fool? They are using him to hide all their crimes and using him to invade who ever they want. If News reporters can track Osama and take his live interviews how come the so-called super power cannot. Its about time to step up and stop this nonsense before we ourselves become the next target.

    Ananymous, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 14:20 November 3, 2010

    its funny how Osama gets wheeled out everytime they want to point the finger somewhere else!! they said they were chasing him on horse through the moutains and he would be caught within a week! nearly 10 years on still not caught him??? the man was on dialysis, which means he was hooked up to a big machine for 5 hours a day!! i think he is a CIA agent who is helping them invade which ever country they want to liberate the oil from!! i believe the east neads the west and the west needs the east but while the people at the top are making such huge sums of money we will never know peace and its the common people like us who suffer!!!

    nick, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 13:40 November 3, 2010

    USA is playing games here...First it pointed out that Osama is in Pakistan and now in Yemen. It knows that Pakistan is very weak now and can't do anything that's why moved it focus to Yemen and ultimately will spread in other gulf countries like a virus.

    Shahid, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 13:32 November 3, 2010

    Bin Laden is either: 1) dead OR 2) living in the best room of the White House i mean...seriously...all this frenzy...people should learn to open their eyes to the true motives of politicians.

    Yasmin, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 11:56 November 3, 2010

    One more Island comes in the eyes of the US, God help them

    Anonyms, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 11:49 November 3, 2010

    Why Gulfnews is creating chaos, now yemen will be invaded in the name os Osama and Al Qaida. millions of more people will join Al Qaida and then it will be alarming to all the Gulf countries. i am sure they will target Gulf Countries for supporting US

    Sajjad, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 11:48 November 3, 2010

    i have noticed in the past years there is always breaking news about al Qaida and the crimes against innocent people across the world which is heart breaking to see innocent lives being taken, but has anyone raised questions about the crimes the US have done to innocent people in palestine, iraq, afghanistan they were also humans who died, this clearly indicates that the United States wants to dominate all across the world, and it won't be surprising to see if US sends their troops to Yemen and there be another invasion.

    mikhail, sharjah, United Arab Emirates

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