Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Is Bin Laden Planning New Attacks Soon?
by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The London-based Arabic satellite channel Middle East Broadcasting Corp. reported that followers of bin Laden, based in Afghanistan, were planning an attack on American and Israeli "interests" within the next few weeks.

However, a close aide of Osama bin Laden denied reports that they were planning terror attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide. He did admit that they met the MBC reporter. Also the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic militia that controls most of Afghanistan, said on Sunday that bin Laden would not be allowed to attack foreign targets.

"All activities by Osama are under control. There is no possibility of using Afghan territory against any other country," Taliban foreign ministry spokesman Mohammed Usman Sheryar said.

What has been reported as already taking place is that American armed forces throughout the Middle East were already on full alert two days before the MBC report. Warships in Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet, were ordered to sea on Friday and three American amphibious vessels left the Red Sea port of Aqaba on Saturday, cutting short a military exercise in Jordan. The reports received by American intelligence referred to a "nonspecific but credible threat."

Bin Laden's motive is said to be based on the fact that U.S. authorities have recently announced moves against his followers. Last month an American jury convicted four followers of bin Laden of plotting to bomb the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Twelve Americans were among the 224 people killed in the attacks.

Last week another U.S. court indicted 14 suspects -- 13 Saudis and a Lebanese -- for the terrorist bombing in 1996 of a U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. servicemen.

The State Department issued a "worldwide caution" last Friday, saying American citizens and interests abroad may be at risk of a terrorist attack from extremist groups. It mentioned groups with links to bin Laden and his Al-Qaida organization as a possible source of a threat.

The Islamabad-based correspondent for the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), Bakri Attrani, said that he had been taken by car across the Pakistan border into Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden.

The terrorist leader, who is prohibited by the Taliban from talking to the press, did not make any direct statement to Mr. Attrani, but the correspondent reported that bin Laden's supporters said that in the next two weeks "a severe blow is expected against USA and Israeli interests worldwide." The correspondent reported that bin Laden seemed pleased when his supporters gave the warning.

Another videotape emerged last week, which showed bin Laden telling his supporters: "It's time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most." The Taliban authorities claimed that it was a fake.

Despite international pressure and U.N. sanctions, the Taliban have refused to hand Bin Laden over to stand a trial for terrorism in the United States or a third country. They say he is their guest and that the United States has no evidence that he is involved in terrorism.

The Taliban control about 95 percent of Afghanistan and espouse a strict version of Islam in a country ravaged by decades of chaos and civil war. Recently they destroyed several huge Buddhist carvings that were hundreds of years old.

Holy War Against Israel?

Hundreds of Muslim Arabs -- including Palestinians -- have been learning terror techniques in camps run by Osama bin Laden, the United States' most wanted terror suspect, Israeli terrorism experts said. They said they feared the current Palestinian uprising would go beyond a struggle for statehood and become a holy war.

Yoram Schweitzer of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism suggested that those returning to the region from camps in Afghanistan and Chechnya are planning a campaign of terror.

"These Afghan alumni see the national dispute between Israelis and Palestinians as a very good chance to transform this confrontation into a religious one," Schweitzer said.

Palestinians call their uprising the "Al Aksa Intifadah," referring to a mosque on the Har Habayis.

Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the institute in Herzilya, said, "The strategic aim of Hamas is to destroy Israel through the armed struggle and to transform the new Palestinian state into an Islamic state."

In June 2000, Israel arrested Nabil Okal, a member of the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas. The Israelis said he was sent to Pakistan four years ago to train in one of bin Laden's camps. Hamas leaders denied they sent Okal to Pakistan or that they had links to bin Laden.

Schweitzer said it's likely that others are training in bin Laden's camps and will be sent to areas of Islamic conflict to carry out attacks and to stir up religious sentiments.

Khatib says efforts to turn the conflict into a religious battle are nothing new.

"The religious people have always been trying to turn it into a religious conflict on both sides," he said. "But with the failure of the peace process and Israel refusing to end its occupation, the position of the secular camp -- which is the Palestinian peace camp -- was shaken by the religious fundamentalists who always say only through conflict can we get our rights."

According to Dr. Gil Feiler, a senior researcher at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Osama bin Laden may be a threat to the United States but he is little more than a nuisance for Israel. "He has so many other things to support," said Feiler. "Really, Israel is not at the top of his priorities."

Bin Laden has often named Israel as a principal enemy but no concrete link has been proven between him and groups planning attacks against Israel.

OC Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Malka revealed that a planned terrorist attack against Israel, sponsored by Bin Laden, was foiled a few months ago. "Bin Laden has tried, will try to reach us, and may even reach us here in Israel," Malka said. "He will try to make use of various countries around us from which to infiltrate, and he will try various creative means."

But Feiler believes that the Bin Laden craze, spurred on by the Americans has been blown out of proportion.

"We know that in the past years we didn't hear much about Bin Laden vis-a-vis Israel. Most activity has been against American targets," Feiler said. "I don't say that in the future he won't threaten Israel, but you can count on the fingers of one hand" the number of attacks being planned against Israel by his group. According to Feiler, the main worries for Israel are still Hamas and Hizbullah.


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