US puts Pak on terror test
Bush weeps, whip in hand
Sleuths see Laden telltale signs
Turban is bad news in fury zone
Three planes on a date with death
Within striking range of White House
A nightmare not to be forgotten
Bin Laden, a charismatic foe
Calcutta Weather

 
 
US PUTS PAK ON TERROR TEST 
 
 
FROM IDREES BAKHTIAR AND REUTERS
 
Islamabad & Washington, Sept. 13: 
The first estimate of the likely toll in the World Trade Center attack became available today with officials disclosing that 4,763 people were missing. As the city made efforts to return to some semblance of everyday life, the focus of attention began to shift towards Pakistan and Afghanistan in the search for perpetrators of the suicide plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

With Osama bin Laden, who has been provided shelter by the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, emerging as the suspected mastermind of the attacks, the US asked Pakistan for “full and practical cooperation”, fuelling speculation of retaliatory action being mounted from Pakistani soil. Pakistan has already pledged cooperation.

A senior US official suggested that a raid could come either this weekend or next week . However, unconfirmed reports said bin Laden could have moved to a new hiding place.

Secretary of state Colin Powell, when asked specifically if bin Laden was the suspect, said: “Yes”, in the first official confirmation that the US believed the fugitive Saudi millionaire plotted the attacks.

The official toll in the World Trade Centre catastrophe has risen to 94, and 70 body parts had been recovered from the smouldering wreckage of the buildings. The situation was “horrible and gruesome”, New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani said. “I’m sorry that I have to describe it that way, but that’s unfortunately the situation that we’re facing.”

President George W. Bush virtually put Pakistan on notice. “I appreciate the support extended by the Pakistan government to track down those responsible. We will give the Pakistan government a chance to prove themselves.”

In a statement, President Pervez Musharraf said: “I wish to assure President Bush and the US government of our fullest cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”

Musharraf has called a meeting of top army commanders tomorrow. Pakistani media reports said regular and paramilitary troops on the Afghan border had been put on high alert. News filtered out of Kabul that Arab nationals had left the Afghan capital. There were also reports of other residents digging trenches.

The Taliban has warned that US strikes could lead to further suicide attacks. “If innocent and sinless people suffer, then it is certain that on the level of the region, hatred will further increase, the result of which will be similar to the suicide incidents,” its spokesman, Abdul Hai Mutmaen, told Reuters. A Taliban radio station said bin Laden could be handed over to an Islamic court if there is proof against him.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, met Musharraf today apparently to seek Pakistan’s help. The request was interpreted in Islamabad to include use of Pakistani airspace and territory, if necessary. Later, Chamberlain said: “The President made a very strong statement that he was with us. He repeated several times that he was with us.”

“Pakistan has been extending cooperation to international efforts to combat terrorism in the past and will continue to do so. All countries must join hands in this common cause,” Musharraf said.

In a parallel move to strengthen the hands of anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, senior diplomats from India, Russia, Iran and other states met today in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe and discussed possible assistance to the alliance led by Ahmad Shah Masood, sources said.

In Washington, Powell said the Bush administration is waiting to see if Pakistan will be helpful in “generating information” and whether or not it will assist if the US finds a basis to act upon that information. Another senior official made it clear that Islamabad was on test. “We expect everybody to take sides. We expect them (Pakistanis) to help us.” Powell spoke to Musharraf yesterday and called him again today. “It was a positive conversation. They discussed the need for cooperation against terrorism and the secretary received from the Pakistani President a commitment to work with us as we go forward,” a state department spokesman said.

Sources in Islamabad said Washington had made clear its displeasure over Pakistan’s relations with the Taliban, but Powell took pains to hide indications that the US was putting pressure. Before speaking to Musharraf, he said: “I will approach this as if I am talking to a friend and let a friend know what I would like to see happen in order to improve the situation in the region. And I hope the President will respond as a friend. Our initial indications are that he will.”

Musharraf has yet to see the list of actions the US wants from Pakistan. Deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has handed Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi, a list of “concrete steps” Washington expects Islamabad to take.

“He will continue his discussions and provide concrete actions we expect them to take to support our efforts,” an official said in Washington.

Pakistani government officials reportedly are working on the assumption that they must make their decision quickly. But any concrete measure of support for US retaliation would be politically difficult for the military leadership. Resentment against the US still lingers for a unilateral Cruise missile strike on targets in Afghanistan in 1998 using Pakistan airspace without permission.

   

 
 
BUSH WEEPS, WHIP IN HAND 
 
 
FROM REUTERS
 
Washington, Sept. 13 : 
With tears in his eyes and in a trembling voice, President George W. Bush vowed to wage a relentless campaign to “whip terrorism”. “This is a terrible moment, but this country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America,” Bush said. “Through the tears of sadness I see an opportunity,” he told reporters during an appearance in the Oval Office at which his eyes filled with tears and his voice at times quavered.

“This nation is sad, but we are also tough and resolute and now is an opportunity to do generations a favour by coming together and whipping terrorism, hunting it down, finding it and holding them accountable,” he added. Bush said he would visit New York City on Friday, a day he declared a national day of prayer and remembrance. He said the visit would be a chance to “thank and hug and cry” with survivors and rescue workers.

   

 
 
SLEUTHS SEE LADEN TELLTALE SIGNS 
 
 
 
Washington, Sept. 13: 
The hijackers who commandeered the commercial jets that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were followers of Osama bin Laden, federal authorities said.

The authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and also important biographical details about many of them but declined to provide their names or nationalities.

However, German police said today they had detained an airport worker “of Moroccan origin” in connection with the attacks. Police also said two of the suspected hijackers had lived in Hamburg, including 33-year-old Mohammed Atta who was on the passenger list of one of the hijacked planes.

Officials said the hijackings featured many elements of previous operations sponsored by bin Laden: small teams; a coordinating commander who arrives on the scene at the final moment; and logistic support by local sympathisers. An aide of bin Laden today quoted him as saying while he had nothing to do with the attacks, they were “punishment from Allah”.

In Boston, authorities had recovered a flight manual in Arabic, which was believed to have belonged to one of the hijackers, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, said.

The FBI has identified a team of 50 people who helped plan or carry out Tuesday’s attacks, a newspaper reported. Forty “infiltrators” had been accounted for, including those who died in the suicide attacks, and 10 remained at large.

Government officials disclosed that at least two people believed to be associates of bin Laden, and who may have been involved in the attacks, had entered the US recently, slipping into the country before the immigration and naturalisation service was told to prevent their entry.

Officials said that each of the four hijacking teams had a leader and worked independently, though the teams appeared to be aware that their actions were being closely coordinated with the other groups.

At least one team entered the US via Canada and made its way to Boston, where the flights of the two aircraft that struck the World Trade Center originated.

Attorney-general John Ashcroft said that each flight was seized by three to six hijackers who boarded as passengers, then, with knives and boxcutters, overwhelmed the crew.

Investigators were focusing on possible confederates in Boston, metropolitan Washington and Union City, New Jersey — near the three airports from where the hijacked planes departed.

Ashcroft said the hijack teams included pilots who had been trained in the US, at least two of them at a commercial flight school in Florida.

With 4,000 FBI agents and 3,000 support personnel on the case, Ashcroft called the inquiry “the most massive and intensive investigation ever conducted in America”.

New York Times News Service and reuters

   

 
 
TURBAN IS BAD NEWS IN FURY ZONE 
 
 
FROM SOMINI SENGUPTA
 
New York, Sept. 13: 
On a quiet block in Brooklyn Heights yesterday, a small cluster of men and boys gathered inside a mosque for afternoon prayers. Outside, a man drove past slowly and yelled, “Murderers”.

In Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, during the peak late-morning shopping hours, just a few women visited stores in their long gowns and veils. Usually, on such a sunny morning, they would have been everywhere. But word had gone out across the country for women in hijab, as the identifying veil is called in Arabic, to stay in.

At Bellevue Hospital Centre, a Muslim father from New Jersey trolled for news of his 25-year-old son, last seen on Tuesday morning on his way to work on the 103rd floor of 1 World Trade Center.

And a Sikh man trying to flee Lower Manhattan on Tuesday found himself running not only from flames, but also from a trio of men yelling invectives about his turban. The lives of ordinary Arabs and Muslim-Americans — and surprisingly, those who are neither Arab nor Muslim but look to untutored American eyes as if they might be — were roiled in these ways.

American Muslim groups, vastly more integrated into American society today than they were at the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were swift to denounce the terrorist acts. Around the country, interfaith prayer meetings have already been held in several cities, including one in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, last night, with Muslim leaders joining other clergy members to voice support for the victims.

A coalition of Muslim advocacy groups in Washington exhorted Muslim doctors to aid victims and urged Muslim-Americans to donate blood. They urged mosques to take extra security measures and encouraged “those who wear Islamic attire” to consider staying clear of public areas.

Some mosques closed their doors out of fear. The Islamic Centre of Irving, a mosque in suburban Dallas, had its windows shattered by gunshots. One mosque in San Francisco found on its doorsteps a bag of what appeared to be blood. And in Alexandria, Vancouver, a vandal threw two bricks through the windows of an Islamic bookstore; handwritten notes with anti-Muslim sentiments were found attached to the bricks.

While Muslims’ lives were clearly changed, also changed were the lives of people who had nothing to do with the Islamic world but who might appear alien to untutored American eyes. Indian women chose not to wear their flowing salwar kameezes. Sikh men, with their religiously prescribed beards and turbans, reported being accosted. They said they were apparently being mistaken as followers of Osama bin Laden, pictured on television with a turban of a different sort. In Providence yesterday, a Sikh man in a turban was pulled off a Boston-Washington train by the police. In Richmond Hill, Queens, one Sikh man was beaten with a baseball bat; two others were shot at with a paint- ball gun. Police arrested two men.

“Quite frankly, it’s worse for us because they keep showing these pictures of bin Laden on television wearing a turban,” said Mandeep Dhillon, a lawyer in Menlo Park, California, and an advocate for Sikh rights. “It’s making us incredibly vulnerable.”

Amrik Singh Chawla, a financial services consultant who was chased by the three men in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday, sprinted onto a train and landed in Brooklyn, where he slipped into a shop, stuffed his turban into his briefcase and wore his hair in a ponytail for the rest of the day. “I’m like terrified for my life, not just seeing people flying out of buildings, but for my own life,” Chawla said.

In New York, police officers stood sentry outside many mosques. The most popular Arab and Muslim shopping strips — one along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, another along Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens — were lined with police. Outside a mosque on Steinway Street yesterday morning, a man stood with a placard reading: “Get out of our country.”

The apprehension of Arab and Muslim New Yorkers was apparent at the offices of the Arab-American Family Service Center in Cobble Hill. Executive director Emira Habiby-Browne, a Palestinian-American, had yanked the group’s name off the front door early Tuesday. Yesterday afternoon, she bolted the doors leading to her office and holed up inside with a legal pad and a telephone.

There were threats. One man said: “You should all die for what you’ve done to my country.” There were requests for guidance. An Arab woman called, wanting to donate blood but afraid to step outside in her traditional hijab.

Another stopped by the office, bewildered about how to speak to the parents of her son’s friends. Habiby-Browne spent much of the afternoon lining up her staff to head out to schools with large numbers of Arab children. Even her staff psychologist was wary of coming in. “My concern is the children when they go back to school,” she said. “I don’t know if they’ll know how to respond.”

She was already weary trying to come up with the right things to say. She had said them all before — during the gulf war, during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, in the days after Oklahoma City. “Has anybody thought about the Arabs who work in the World Trade Center?” she said.

New York Times News Service

   

 
 
THREE PLANES ON A DATE WITH DEATH 
 
 
BY JODI WILGOREN AND EDWARD WONG
 
Sept. 13: 

Passengers vowed to go down fighting

They told the people they loved that they would die fighting.

Threads began to come together Wednesday supporting what the flight path suggested: That the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey, which crashed into an empty Pennsylvania field instead of possibly a national landmark, had tried to thwart the enemy.

In cellular telephone calls during their final moments, two young men told their soon-to-be-widows that they would try to overpower the hijackers, and, learning what had already happened at the World Trade Center, they vowed to prevent others from dying even if they could not save themselves.

Lyzbeth Glick, 31, of Hewitt, New Jersey, said her husband, Jeremy, told her that three or four large men planned to take a vote about how to proceed, and joked about taking on the hijackers with the butter knives from the in-flight breakfast. She said Glick told her that “three Arab-looking men with red headbands,’’ carrying knives and talking about a bomb, took control of the aircraft. “He was a man who would not let things happen,’’ she said of her high school sweetheart and husband of five years, the father of a 12-week-old daughter, Emerson.

“He was a hero for what he did but he was a hero for me because he told me not to be sad and to take care of our daughter and he said whatever happened he would be OK with any choices I make.’’

Another passenger, Thomas E. Burnett Jr., an executive at a Bay Area medical device company, told his wife, Deena, that one passenger had already been stabbed to death but that a group was “getting ready to do something.’’

“I pleaded with him to please sit down and not draw attention to himself,’’ Deena Burnett, the mother of three young daughters, told a San Francisco-area television station. “And he said: ‘No, no. If they’re going to run this into the ground we’re going to have to do something.’ And he hung up.’’

The accounts revealed a spirit of defiance amid the desperate tragedy. Relatives and friends and a Congressman who represents the area around the crash site in Pennsylvania hailed the fallen passengers as the patriots of America’s darkest day.

“Jeremy and all the other patriotic heroes saved the lives of many people on the ground that would have died if the Arab terrorists had been able to complete their heinous mission,’’ Tom Crowley, Lyzbeth Glick’s uncle, wrote in the e-mail message.

Like others on the doomed plane, Glick, 31, and Burnett, 38, had changed their plans at the last minute to board the 8 am flight. Glick, who worked for an Internet company called Vividence, was heading West on business, and Burnett, chief operating officer for Thoratec Corp., was returning home from a visit to the company’s Edison, New Jersey, office.

Lauren Grandcolas of San Rafael, California, left an early-morning message on her husband’s answering machine saying she would be home earlier than expected from her grandmother’s funeral. Mark Bingham, 31, who ran a small public relations firm, had felt too sick to fly on Monday, but was racing to make an afternoon meeting with a client.

The first phone call Bingham made once he settled in seat 4D was to his friend Matthew Hall, who had snaked through traffic to drop him at the airport just a few minutes before the scheduled departure after they slept through a 6 am alarm. “He was like, ‘I made the plane, I’m in first class, I’m drinking a glass of orange juice,’” recalled Hall, 30, who lives in Denville, New Jersey. The plane was airborne by 8.44 am, according to radar logs, and headed west, climbing to 35,000 feet and flying apparently without incident until it reached Cleveland about 50 minutes later. At 9:37, it turned south and headed back the way it came.

This time, Bingham, a 6-foot-5 former rugby player , called his mother, Alice Hoglan.

“He said: ‘Three guys have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb,’’’ Hoglan said.

More phone calls were placed from the sparsely populated plane. One passenger barricaded himself in the bathroom and dialed 911, insisting to dispatchers, “This is not a hoax.’’ Grandcolas tried to wake her husband, Jack, begging him to pick up the phone. “We’re having problems,’’ she said, according to her neighbour, Dave Shapiro, who listened to a tape of the message. “But I’m comfortable,’’ she said, and then, after a pause, added: “For now.’’

Shotdown theory

Federal investigators said on Thursday they could not rule out the possibility that Flight 93 was shot down. “We have not ruled out that,” FBI agent Bill Crowley said when asked about reports that a US fighter jet may have fired on the hijacked Boeing 757. “We haven’t ruled out anything yet.”

The defence department had denied reports suggesting the US military could have downed the hijacked flight in an effort to prevent it from reaching a target.

(new york times news service)

   

 
 
WITHIN STRIKING RANGE OF WHITE HOUSE 
 
 
BY ELAINE SCIOLINO AND JOHN H. CUSHMAN JR.
 
Sept. 13: 
Most of the seats were empty on American Airlines Flight 77, a twin-engined Boeing 757, and the people who sat near windows for the flight from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles had a crystal-clear view of the Blue Ridge mountains and then the Ohio River Valley far below.

At 8:51 am on Tuesday, about 40 minutes into the flight, the plane reached normal cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, at which passengers are normally free to unbuckle their seat belts and move round while the flight attendants deliver drinks and snacks.

Among the 58 passengers were a top Washington lobbyist, a savvy lawyer with a telecommunications portfolio, a group of schoolchildren and teachers on a National Geographic field trip, the President of a California-based firm that helped employees balance their work and personal lives, and a well-known conservative television commentator.

Leslie A. Whittington, an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University, was en route with her husband and two daughters for a two-month adventure in Australia. She had left a message on her office answering machine that sounded chilling the day after the crash: “My family and I are off in Australia, where we’ll be until late November. Thanks, and we’ll see you when we get back.”

But among those moving around the cabin, the authorities say, were several hijackers with knives. At 8:56 am, as the plane flew into Ohio, the plane’s tracking beacon was cut off.

Then it turned around for a 300-mile trip back east, transformed suddenly into a lethal missile that senior administration officials have said might have been aimed at the White House.

The authorities have not released details of the plane’s track as it bore down on Washington and crashed not into the White House, but just across the Potomac River in Virginia. Details of its routine flight west were provided by Flight Explorer, a company that sells information gathered instantly from the radio transponders that commercial jets carry.

Somebody turned Flight 77’s transponder off just after it headed west into Ohio. Presumably, that was when the hijacking happened.

Whatever the intended target, by the time the plane turned back to Washington, the World Trade Center already had been hit by two other hijacked planes. And by about 9:25 am, Washington knew that this was another hijacking. That was when Olson called her husband, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, at the justice department and told him that the plane had been hijacked.

Five minutes later, she called back to say that the passengers had been herded into the back of the plane, and that the pilot was with them — not in the cockpit.

At about this time, President Bush announced in Florida that the attack in New York had been an act of terrorism and vowed to hunt down the perpetrators.

In Washington, Olson’s husband relayed his wife’s report immediately to a justice department command post. As the plane drew closer, local and regional air traffic control radars could see that the incommunicado plane was bound straight toward the restricted area around the White House, where no flights are allowed. Flights in and out of National Airport, which is not far from the Pentagon, stay over the Potomac River, skirting the edge of the restricted zone.

In theory, an early enough warning that a third hijacked plane was heading toward Washington might have triggered the launch of supersonic fighter planes from any of several nearby bases. In this case, the seriousness of the threat may have dawned on the authorities just too late to allow any reaction. The plane hit the Pentagon at 9:45 am.

Bill Cheng, an American Airlines pilot who normally flies Flight 77, changed his plans in late August and applied for time off on Tuesday so he could go camping. When another pilot signed up for the slot, Cheng was notified that his application was accepted, and that he would not fly on Tuesday.

“As you can imagine, I have mixed emotions about this. I feel terrible for whoever picked it up,” he said, adding that he would not ordinarily keep track of such a thing. “I’m sick. I’m just heartbroken.” Christopher Newton, 38, the President and chief executive of Work/Life Benefits in Cypress, California, who died on the plane, was the kind of man who frequently missed flights by a few minutes, but not this time. “He was very last-minute,” said Bill Gurzi, the director of the consulting group.

Among lobbyists in Washington, Raines was regarded as exceptional because she was a lawyer and patent expert. She was as comfortable dealing with the Food and Drug Administration as she was with members of Congress of both parties. Her trip to California was for a meeting of Genzyme’s sales force. “It was just ‘Goodbye,’ and ‘I love you’ and we kissed,” said Steven Push, her husband.

(new york times news service)

   

 
 
A NIGHTMARE NOT TO BE FORGOTTEN 
 
 
FROMJOHN KIFNER
 
Boston, Sept. 13: 
American Airlines Flight 11 to Los Angeles took off on schedule out of the tangle of construction choking Boston’s Logan Airport, right on time at 7:59 on Tuesday morning.

Capt. John Ogonowski was at the controls, a 50-year-old veteran who lived on a farm north of the city and was looking forward to a family picnic on the weekend.

His co-pilot was First Officer Thomas McGuiness and there were nine flight attendants and 81 passengers, a seemingly everyday mixture: a successful television producer, some businessmen, a retired ballet dancer, an actress and photographer, a young man who had made a success in the area’s technology economy. And several hijackers.

The plane held on course, almost due west, for only 16 minutes. Just past Worcester, Massachusetts, instead of taking a southerly turn, the Boeing 767 swung suddenly to the north at 8:15 am. It had been taken over by hijackers.

Shortly after the plane took off, Justice Department officials said, an ugly bloody scene — almost identical on each of the four airliners that were hijacked on Tuesday —played itself out in the cabin. On each plane, the officials said, a group of three to six men pulled out knives and box cutters they had apparently brought on board in their carry-on luggage, perhaps concealed in shaving kits.

They threatened or slashed the flight attendants, possibly to get the pilots to open the cockpit door. The northerly turn was clear only later when the plane’s fatal route toward the World Trade Center could be traced along the series of radar beacons beaming from high points of land along the way. But four minutes later, at 8:20 am, Flight 11 failed to follow an instruction to climb to its cruising altitude of 31,000 feet, and it was then that air controllers suspected something was wrong.

It was just about then that the plane’s transponder, a sophisticated piece of equipment that broadcast its location, went out. Ogonowski apparently tried to signal air controllers by “keying’’ the microphone, pushing it’s button intermittently to signal the controllers that something was wrong and at one point allowing them to hear the voice of the hijacker, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

In the cabin, meanwhile, one of the flight attendants managed to make a telephone call — either on a cell phone or those on the back of the seats — to the American Airlines Operations Centre, officials there said, warning that a hijacking was in progress, and giving the seat number of one hijackers, providing a crucial lead to investigators.

Neither the airline, the flight attendant’s union nor federal investigators would reveal the name of the flight attendant. On a beautiful early autumn day, Flight 11 headed northwest, where the Berkshires, the Taconic Range and the beginning of the Green Mountains mark the spot where the borders of Massachusetts, New York and Vermont intersect.

Crossing into New York, the plane flew into the area known as the Albany-Schenectedy-Troy triangle and over Amsterdam and veered sharply left, heading due south to New York City. It was 8:29 am.

The flight path was straight now, along the Hudson Valley and then right above the broad river itself. It should have been a long, leisurely flight to Los Angeles.

The plane was low now, only about 900 feet high, and the silvery twin towers of the World Trade Center rose above the tip of Manhattan. In the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of the north tower, several dozen businessmen in suits and ties were enjoying a leisurely breakfast when Flight 11 slammed into the building 20 floors below.

It was 8:45 a.m.

(new york times news service)

   

 
 
BIN LADEN, A CHARISMATIC FOE 
 
 
BY KATHY LALLY
 
Sept. 13: 
He has a soft voice, a melancholy smile and a gift for flowery Arabic, which allows Osama bin Laden to explain in pleasing poetry why all Americans should die.

To the West, bin Laden is the face of evil, a terrorist who has built a worldwide network connecting zealous fighters with rogue states. He is accused of involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people, and in the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen last year. That makes him a suspect in Tuesday’s attacks on American soil.

“He’s probably the most popular individual in the Muslim world,” says Yossef Bodansky, author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America.

“He’s the most lucid and eloquent spokesman for all of the grievances Muslims have toward the West, justified and unjustified.’’

Bin Laden, who had a university education in Saudi Arabia but lacks a formal Islamic education, has been able to make an exceptionally persuasive case that international terrorism is the work of God, Bodansky says.

“It’s correct that the majority of Muslims don’t follow his beliefs, but we have yet to find someone with similar credentials who can make a contradictory case in Islamic terms,” he says. “The contradictory arguments are made at the higher, academic level, but not at the popular level.”

Bin Laden, who is in his mid-40’s, is part of a large and influential Saudi family that made its money in construction. His own fortune is estimated at $350 million. He is the youngest of 24 brothers and has 16 to 18 children. He was radicalised 20 years ago, when he went to Afghanistan to fight in the jihad against the Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

“He fought bravely, and he returned to Saudi Arabia a hero,’’ Bodansky says. Bin Laden objected to the American presence in Saudi Arabia after the end of the Gulf War, creating diplomatic difficulties for his native country, and he was exiled to Sudan.

There he came under the influence of a Sudanese religious leader, Hassan Turabi, and became further radicalised even as he learned the religious arguments to support his beliefs. In 1996, Sudan succumbed to US diplomatic pressure and forced bin Laden to leave. He went to Afghanistan, where he has lived ever since, training religious fighters recruited from numerous Muslim countries.

He named his organisation al-Qaida — The Base in Arabic — and began recruiting members from among 50,000 Afghan war veterans. In 1998, he allied himself with several other militant leaders and issued a religious decree: “To kill Americans and their allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty of every Muslim who is able, in any country where this is possible.”

“He’s a formidable foe,” Bodansky says, “not as a bomb-builder but as someone building a structure among a quarter of the human population.” Al-Qaida has reportedly trained about 5,000 militants who have returned to their homes to set up their own cells.

Bodansky, who works as a congressional consultant as director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, insists that it is too early to declare bin Laden a suspect in Tuesday’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“The investigation is still at the beginning,” he says. “It’s going to take time before we can really say this guy did it or that guy did it. It’s far too early to have this kind of quick explanation.”

Bob Maxim, West Asia analyst for Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services in Virginia, says bin Laden has focused on the United States as the symbol of all the things that Islam despises. These feelings have been inflamed by US support of Israel.

“He sees the US as permissive and promiscuous, tolerating values that are utterly destructive of the social fabric,” he says. “You combine the religious grounds and the political grounds, and that’s the motivation.” And he doesn’t believe Taliban assertions that bin Laden is innocent of terrorism. “They’re in a different moral dimension,” he says. “You don’t have to tell the truth to infidels.”

Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

   

 
 
CALCUTTA WEATHER 
 
 
 
 

Temperature

Maximum: 31.8°C (0)
Minimum: 25.3°C (-1)

Rainfall

1.6 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 97%
Min: 77%

Today:

Light to moderate rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts.
Sunrise: 5.25 am
Sunset: 5.40 pm
   
 

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