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Central Asia/Russia

Al-Qaeda primed for wider struggle
By Syed Saleem Shahzad

KARACHI - The recent sudden escalation of violence between Palestinian and Israeli authorities is no coincidence - it is a part of Osama Bin Laden's overall plan to polarize the entire Muslim world against the Judea-Christian world, according to intelligence sources.

The fundamentalist group Hamas, many of whose members are a part of bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network of Islamic groups, has claimed responsibility for the recent deadly wave of suicide bombings in Israel and it will seek dual benefits from its latest campaign. The suicide attacks will likely prompt United States and Israeli authorities to open up another front of the war on terrorism. However, unlike as has been the case with Afghanistan, the Islamic block will be unwilling to back such initiatives in the Middle East, thus setting the stage for a deepening split between the two worlds with different religious backgrounds.

Al-Qaeda's activities are said to be largely orchestrated by bin Laden's sidekick, Egyptian surgeon Dr Aimen al Zawari, who has adopted theories similar to those developed by Karl Marx that every idea contains internal contradictions (the thesis and antithesis) that must struggle to create a new idea (or synthesis).

In the past 10 years, Al-Qaeda has taken root in virtually every corner of the world. It members are said to be waiting for the right spark to set off wider attacks in other regions while the US and its allies are preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan and the merits of a possible attack on Iraq.

The driving motive behind the US war on terrorism is not, as some claim, to get its hands on mineral resources in Central Asia, but to eliminate the terror network of bin Laden. The cat-and-mouse game between him and the US has been going on for a long time, but now it is expected to become a more open struggle across the world between Al-Qaeda, which in fact is an underground state within many states of the world, and the US.

The game, in fact, goes back many years. In 1991, bin Laden, fresh from his jihad in Afghanistan and bitterly opposed to the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, went into exile in Sudan. The country then was under the patronage of fundamentalist leader Dr Hassan al Turabi, whose powerful National Islamic Front party was supported by Iran. It was at this time that bin Laden started building his underground empire and arranging finance for its operations.

Bin Laden started off with about US$300-$400 million which he had inherited from his father, who owned one of Saudi Arabia's biggest construction groups. Bin Laden set up a building business in Kenya and a concrete factory in Yemen, and he invested in construction projects in a number of European cities, including Rome. In Sudan's capital Khartoum, bin Laden established links with the Al Shamal Islamic Bank, import/export business Wadi al Aqiq, investment company Taba Investment Company and a number of other businesses concerning exports.

One of bin Laden's first operations was to support Hamas and to help intensify its vision of attacking Israeli and US interests. With the Palestinians, bin Laden developed a worldwide money-laundering network for mostly drug money, which was used to finance terror attacks, and notably to keep the Hamas struggle going.

Bin Laden's military commander was Mohammed Atef (killed in Kabul by US bombs), while Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim is the financial kingpin in the network who lays the plans and organizes attacks.

In 1992, there was a bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that claimed the lives of 29 people. This was just the beginning of many more attacks to come.

From bin Laden's viewpoint, the United States is run by Jewish capital, which is why he believes that the US forges such close ties with Israel and which is why he thinks that Washington can be forced to come out and defend the country against Hamas.

In the beginning of 1993, the World Trade Center in New York was damaged in a bomb attack with the loss of several lives. Behind the attack wass Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, whose real name is Abdul Basit Balachi. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has concluded that bin Laden ordered the attack. The same year, Mohammed al Masari flees Saudi Arabia via Yemen before settling in London.

In 1994, bin Laden, then 38, is stripped of his Saudi citizenship after Egypt, Algeria and Yemen accuse him of financing subversive groups in their countries. The same year, another bomb goes off in Buenos Aires, claiming 95 people.

After completing these operations, under which it broadened its networks in both the Arab world and the Americas, Al-Qaeda moved its attentions to Southeast Asia, and the Philippines in particular. This country was the center of the Washington's interests in the Far East, as it had large military bases there. Bin Laden's long-time friend from the Afghan resistance movement, Abu Sayyaf, was already engaged in a separatist struggle in the country. His outfit provided a base for Al-Qaeda's network to stretch into the Far East.

On December 11, 1994 a bomb blew up in a Philippine passenger aircraft, set off by Ramzi Ahmed Youssef. A month later Youssef was in Manila for talks with several Arabs and members of the Abu Sayyaf over an attack on Pope John Paul II, who was soon to visit the capital. It never happened, and Youssef was arrested at the end of February in Islamabad, Pakistan, and deported to the US to stand trial for the World Trade Center bombing.

Youssef was implicated by another suspect, Wali Khan Amir Shah, who had become a witness for the US intelligence services. On March 8, two American workers at the US consulate in Karachi were killed in revenge. Then six Arabs and a Brazilian were arrested in Paraguay for the attacks in 1992 and in 1994 in Buenos Aires against the Israeli targets. They were also a part of Al-Qaeda.

In April 1995, it becomes known that Iran has delivered a large supply of weapons to Bosnian Muslims, mostly via Croatia, allowing them to continue their struggle against Bosnian Serbs.

On April 7, 1995, the Abu Sayyaf group attacks a village in the Philippines as revenge for the arrest of the six Arabs. They are supported from Iraq, Libya and the Afghanistan guerrilla movement Harakat-e-Islami. The same year bin Laden leaves Sudan in the face of Western pressure and settles in Afghanistan. In 1995, there was a foiled attack on President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Bin Laden now sent messages to an underground network in Saudi Arabia to initiate initiate activities against US interests in that country. This network had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda, but it was still inspired by bin Laden. According to sources, bin Laden never thought to dethrone or destabilize the Saudi monarchy, but wanted to force them to stop pandering to US interests. But things warmed up in Saudi Arabia. In 1995, Abdullah al Huzaifi was beheaded over an attack on a Saudi officer, as was Saudi al Hudhalf. They both belonged to the Saudi Hezbollah. In November, a car bomb exploded near a US military center in Riyad, leaving seven people killed. Four Saudies confessed that they were inspired by bin Laden.

Soon afterward, Mohammed al Masari gives a press conference in London at which he shows a video of bin Laden saying that the attack was justified. Saudi Arabia protests and in January 1996 then British premier John Major has Masari deported. On May 4, the perpetrators of the Saudi attack are beheaded. Then on June 25, 19 Americans are killed by a bomb explosion at a US base near Dhahran. Bin Laden is interviewed in Afghanistan and says that there will be more attacks.

It was at this time that bin Laden twists his stance and courts Iran to some extent. On June 29, there was a meeting in Tehran, attended by the most important terrorist organizations of the Middle East, organized by Iran's secret service. After this meeting the Lebanese Hezbollah becomes a part of Al-Qaeda and bin Laden injects large amounts of cash into the group.

London-based Syrian Sheik Omar Bakri is leader of the worldwide Islamic fundamentalist organization Al-Muhajiroun, which has connections to bin Laden. Bin Laden also promised the Iranian Revolutionary Guard about $60 million to train Egyptians who would be based in Afghanistan and then transferred to fight in Bosnia and Kosovo alongside the Muslims. This was how bin Laden's network expanded to Europe.

In November 1997, a large group of tourists was massacred at Luxor, Egypt, by members of the Gamaa Islamiyya. It was also behind the failed attack in 1995 on Mubarak.

In February 1998, the Islamic Front against Jews and Christians is formed in Afghanistan by bin Laden, combining Egypt's Gamaa Islamiyya, Al-Jihad and three smaller groups. Iranian, Palestinian and Egyptian movements began meetings from 1998 in Khartoum. The CIA suspects Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin of attending the meetings.

On August 4, 1998 Albania deports, with the help of the CIA, Egyptian jihad members to Egypt, where they are wanted in connection with the Luxor incident. Albania's Minister of Internal Affairs Paskal Milo declares that former president Sali Berisha allowed the fundamentalist terrorists to settle in Albania. Three days later, there are bomb explosions in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, which kill 257 people. On the same day, Mohammed Sadiq Odeh from Palestine was arrested in Pakistan shortly after arriving from Kenya. He was deported to the US, accompanied by US agents. He was behind the attacks and he implicates bin Laden.

Another suspect, Mohammed Sadik Howaida, is arrested at Karachi airport after returning from Nairobi and is deported to Kenya a week later. On September 27, the US accuses Mohamed Rashid Daoud al Howhali (aka Khalid Salim Saleh bin Rashid) and Mohammed Saddiq Howeida (aka Mohammed Saddiq Odeh). Al Howhali acknowledges links with bin Laden.

From this time on, the CIA was hard on bin Laden's tail. The US exerted pressure on Pakistan to use its good offices with the Taliban to force them to hand him over. Taliban leader Mullah Omar refused. The US reacts with missile attacks on bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and on some industries in Sudan.

Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin said that they will take revenge. On August 8, the Taliban take Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan and slaughter thousands of Shia Hazzara Muslims and also kill seven Iranian diplomats. This seriously strains Taliban-Iran relations, and bin Laden's ties with Iran are also hurt.

In mid-September 1998, Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim was arrested in Munich. Bin Laden is also connected with attacks in Yemen and Somalia. His right-hand man is Egyptian Aimen Mohamed Rabie al Zawari (also suspected of having a false Dutch passport in the name of Sami Mahmoud El Hifnawi). Zawari, who is on Egypt's wanted list with 14 other suspected Egyptian terrorists, is thought to live in Switzerland.

This broad network established in every corner of the world operates with not only Arabs but through hundreds of other people from different ethnic backgrounds - and they are all waiting to answer the call to intensify their struggle against what they see as the evil of the United States and Israel.

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