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The Miracles ONE MONTH AFTER THE SOVIET INVASION, Prince Turki al-Faisal paid a visit to Pakistan. He was shaken by the Soviet takeover of Afghanistan, which he saw as the first step in a march toward the warm waters of the Persian Gulf. Pakistan would be next. He believed the Soviet Union's ultimate target was to control the Strait of Hormuz at the base of the Gulf, where Oman reaches toward Iran like a fishhook for an open mouth. From there, the Soviets could control the supply route for the supertankers that ferried the petroleum from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran. Whoever commanded the strait had a knife at the throat of the world's oil supply. Turki's colleagues in the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) briefed him on the Afghan resistance, then took him to the refugee camps outside Peshawar. Turki was appalled by the scale of the suffering. He went back to the Kingdom vowing to dedicate more money to the mujahideen, although he believed that these ragged soldiers could never defeat the Red Army. "Afghanistan was gone/' he decided. He only hoped to delay the inevitable Soviet invasion of Pakistan. Similar thinking was going on in Washington, especially by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was the U.S. national security advisor for the Carter administration. Brzezinski, however, saw the invasion as an opportunity. He wrote to Carter immediately, saying, "Now we can give the USSR its own Vietnam war." Looking for an ally in this endeavor, the Americans naturally turned to the Saudis—that is, to Turki, the American-educated prince who held the Afghan account. Turki became the key man in the covert alliance of the United States and the Saudis to funnel money and arms to the resistance through the Pakistani ISI. It was vital to keep this program secret in order to pre- 99 T H E L O O M I N G T O W ER vent the Soviets from having the excuse they sought to invade Pakistan. Until the end of the war, the Saudis would match the Americans dollar for dollar, starting with only seventy-five thousand dollars but growing into billions. The immediate problem Turki faced was that the mujahideen were little more than disorganized mobs. There were about 170 armed Afghan militias in the mid-1980s. In order to manage this chaos, the ISI anointed six major émigré parties as the designated recipients for aid. Afghan refugees, who numbered 3.27 million by 1988, had to sign up with one of the six official parties to qualify for food and supplies. The two largest of these, headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Burhanuddin Rabbani, each had 800,000 people in Peshawar under their authority. Turki forcibly created a seventh official party that would better represent Saudi interests. Ittihad-e-Islami (Islamic Union) was privately funded through bin Laden and others and headed by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. An imposing and dashing Afghan warlord, six feet three inches tall, who draped himself in colorful blankets, Sayyaf spoke excellent classical Arabic from his years studying at al-Azhar University in Cairo. His devout Wahhabi beliefs were out of step with the Sufi traditions that predominated in Afghanistan before the war, but they were very much attuned to the interests of the Saudi Arabian government and its religious establishment. These seven mujahideen leaders came to be known, by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that were their principal means of support, as the Seven Dwarves. Turki saw trouble ahead with the greedy and contentious Dwarves, and he repeatedly urged these competing groups to unify under a single command. In 1980 he brought the mujahideen leaders to Mecca. Ahmed Badeeb, Turki's assistant, escorted them. Badeeb discovered that the most expedient way of silencing the discord among the resistance leaders was to lock them up in a jail in Taif until they agreed to pick Sayyaf—Turki's man—as their leader. But as soon as they left the Kingdom, the jailhouse agreement fell apart. "They went back to their old ways," Turki complained. "FEAR OF BODILY PARTICIPATION" kept bin Laden well away from the battlefield in the early years of the war, a fact that later caused him great shame. He limited his trips in Pakistan to Lahore and Islamabad, not even venturing as far as Peshawar, then shuttling back home 100 The Miracles to Jeddah. These frequent excursions eventually cost him his job. By walking away from the Saudi Binladin Group's reconstruction of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, he forfeited his share of the profit—an amount that Abdullah Azzam calculated was 8 million riyals, about $2.5 million. In 1984 Azzam persuaded him to cross the frontier into Jaji, where Sayyaf had a camp high in the mountains above a major Soviet outpost. "I was surprised by the sad state of the equipment and everything else—weapons, roads, and trenches," bin Laden recalled. "I asked forgiveness from God Almighty, feeling that I had sinned because I listened to those who advised me not to g o . . . . I felt that this four-year delay could not be pardoned unless I became a martyr." At seven in the morning on June 26, 1984, during the month of Ramadan, most of the mujahideen in the Jaji camp were still sleeping, since they had been praying and eating late into the night after fasting during the day. The sound of a Soviet jet rudely brought them back to consciousness. The men dove for the shallow trenches. "The mountains were shaking from the bombardment," bin Laden noted. He was shocked by how low the planes flew as they attacked. "The missiles that landed outside the camp were making a huge noise that covered the sound of the mujahideen cannon as if they did not exist. Bear in mind that if you heard these sounds alone, you might say that there could not be anything louder! As to the missiles that landed inside the camp, thanks to God, they did not explode. They landed as iron lumps on the land. I felt closer to God than ever." Bin Laden recorded that the mujahideen shot down four Soviet aircraft that morning. "I saw with my own eyes the remains of [one of] the pilots," he marveled. "Three fingers, a part of a nerve, the skin of one cheek, an ear, the neck, and the skin of the back. Some Afghan brothers came and took a photo of him as if he were a slaughtered sheep! We cheered." He also noted admiringly that the Afghans had not bothered to jump into the trenches with the frightened Arabs when the attack began. "Not one of our brothers had been injured, thank God. This battle gave me in fact a big push to continue in this matter. I become more convinced of the fact that no one could be injured except by God's will." Bin Laden immediately returned to Saudi Arabia, and before the end of Ramadan he raised a fortune for the mujahideen—"between five and ten million dollars," Abdullah Azzam airily recalled. "I don't 101 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER remember for sure/' More than $2 million of that came from one of bin Laden's half sisters. Until now bin Laden had been seen mainly as a promising acolyte of Sheikh Abdullah's, but suddenly he eclipsed his mentor as the chief private financier of the jihad. Azzam reacted by officially joining forces with his protégé. In September 1984, during the hajj, the two men met in Mecca. Although he was quiet and deferential, bin Laden already had his own plan. Perhaps it had been born in that attack in Jaji, when the Arabs all dove for the trenches. He had observed that the Afghans treated them as "glorified guests," not as real mujahideen. He suggested to Azzam that "we should take on the responsibility of the Arabs, because we know them better and can provide more rigorous training for them." The two men agreed to create a more formal role for the Arabs in Afghanistan, although there were few Arabs actually fighting the jihad at that time. Bin Laden undertook to change that by offering a ticket, a residence, and living expenses for every Arab—and his family—who joined their forces. That amounted to about three hundred dollars per month for each household. Azzam added to bin Laden's stunning announcement by issuing a fatwa that electrified Islamists everywhere. In a book eventually published under the title Defense of Muslim Lands, Azzam argued that jihad in Afghanistan was obligatory for every able-bodied Muslim.* He had given an advance copy of the text to Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, Saudi Arabia's chief cleric, who wrote a preface to the book and pronounced his own supporting fatwa in the bin Laden family mosque in Jeddah. Azzam's fatwa draws a distinction between a fard ayn and a fard kifaya. The first is an individual religious obligation that falls upon all Muslims, like praying and fasting. One cannot avoid such duties and be considered a good Muslim. If nonbelievers invade a Muslim land, it is fard ayn—a compulsory duty—for the local Muslims to expel them. If they fail, then the obligation expands to their Muslim neighbors. "If they, too, slacken, or there is again a shortage of manpower, then it is upon the people behind them, and on the people behind them, to march forward. This process continues until it becomes fard ayn upon
- Interestingly, this former Palestinian guerrilla makes the case that Afghanistan
takes precedence over the Palestinian struggle against Israel. The war in Afghanistan was intended to bring forth an Islamic state, he says, whereas the Palestinian cause has been appropriated by various groups, including "communists, nationalists, and modernist Muslims," who were fighting for a secular state. 1 0 2 The Miracles the whole world/' A child does not need permission from his parents, nor a debtor from his creditor, nor even a woman from her husband to join the jihad against the invader. Fard kifaya, on the other hand, is a duty of the community. Azzam gives the example of a group of people walking along a beach. "They see a child about to drown." The child, he suggests, is Afghanistan. Saving the drowning child is an obligation for all the swimmers who witness him. "If someone moves to save him, the sin falls from the rest. But, if no one moves, all the swimmers are in sin." Thus Azzam argues that the jihad against the Soviets is the duty of each Muslim individually, as well as of the entire Muslim people, and that all are in sin until the invader is repelled. Bolstered by the imprimatur of bin Baz and other distinguished clerics, news of the fatwa circulated immediately through Islamic communities everywhere. Although it's true that the Arab Afghan movement began with these two events—bin Laden's announcement of financial support for Arab mujahideen and Azzam's searing fatwa— one would have to say that their initial efforts were largely a failure. Rather few Arabs actually obeyed the summons, and many who did were drawn as much by bin Laden's money as by the obligation to defend Islam in the manner that Azzam prescribed. As soon as they returned to Pakistan, bin Laden and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam set up what they called the Services Bureau (Makhtab al- Khadamat) in a house bin Laden was renting in the University Town section of Peshawar. Bin Laden provided twenty-five thousand dollars a month to keep the office running. The house also served as a hostel for Arab mujahideen and the headquarters of Azzam's magazine and book publishing efforts. The Services Bureau was essentially a repository for the money that the two men were sweeping in through their intensive fund-raising efforts. Jamal Khalifa joined bin Laden and Azzam in the Services Bureau, and they struggled to ensure that the donations, which often came in suitcases full of cash, actually got into the hands of the refugees. Azzam's long-standing membership in the Muslim Brothers gave him an international circuit to call upon for his ceaseless promotion of the insurgency. Still, his efforts did not compare with those of bin Laden, whom he called "this heaven-sent man," with a direct connection to the Saudi royal family and the petro-billionaires of the Gulf. Bin Laden also drew from his connection to Prince Turki. Twice a month Turki's chief of staff, and bin Laden's former science teacher, 103 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER Ahmed Badeeb, traveled to Peshawar to deliver cash to the mujahideen leaders. The Saudi government contributed $350 to $500 million per year for the Afghan jihad. This money was placed in a Swiss bank account controlled by the United States government, which used it to support the mujahideen; but the Saudis also ran their own programs privately, raising millions of dollars for their favored commanders. More than a tenth of the private money went to supplement bin Laden's unofficial activities. Turki says he first met bin Laden in 1985 or 1986 in Peshawar. They met again soon afterward at a Saudi Embassy party in Islamabad. Bin Laden would dutifully report his activities to Turki, such as bringing in heavy equipment and engineers to build fortifications. He struck the prince as shy, soft-spoken, friendly, "almost gentle," and highly useful. Through bin Laden, Turki could recruit young Arabs to the jihad, as well as provide training and indoctrination outside ISI control. Moreover, bin Laden was raising large sums of money off the books— a trove that a skillful intelligence operator could put to use. The Services Bureau became a registry for young Arabs who turned up in Peshawar looking for a way to get into the war. It offered these men—or, often enough, high school students—guesthouses to stay in and directed them to the training camps. In a place where magical legends sprouted so easily, bin Laden soon became a part of jihadi lore. Many of the Arab Afghans swore fealty to Azzam, but it was bin Laden who was paying their rent. His wealth and his charity immediately distinguished him. He passed through hospital wards, a lanky, singular figure, handing out cashews and chocolate to the wounded fighters while carefully noting their names and addresses. He built a theological library for the edification of the mujahideen who were killing time in the city, and he tutored at least one young Afghan warrior in Arabic. He gave money to Sayyaf to start the University of Dawa al-Jihad just outside Peshawar in the Tribal Areas, which would become internationally known as a terrorist training academy. He also pitched in at Jihad, the Arabic-language magazine that Azzam published. He was not politically sophisticated, like some of the others in the bureau, but he was tireless—"an activist with great imagination," Abdullah Anas, an Algerian who worked with him in the Services Bureau, observed. "He ate very little. He slept very little. Very generous. He'd give you his clothes. He'd give you his money." Bin Laden did not, however, make much of an impression as a 1 0 4 The Miracles charismatic leader, especially in the shadow of Abdullah Azzam. "He had a small smile on his face and soft hands/' a hardened Pakistani mujahid recalled. "You'd think you were shaking hands with a girl." He was shy and serious, and he struck many as naive. When he laughed, he covered his mouth with his hand. A Syrian who eventually became a confidant of bin Laden remembered their first meeting: "It was in November 1985. He had no name at the time. We were in a prayer hall in a guesthouse. People asked him to talk, so he talked about horses. He said if you love a horse, he will respond to you. That's what was in his mind, horses." SHEIKH ABDULLAH called the small band of Arabs who gathered in Peshawar the "Brigade of the Strangers." The Arabs kept to themselves, establishing their own mosques and schools and newspapers. Some had arrived with nothing in their pockets but a telephone number. Thanks to bin Laden's generous subsidy, many of them settled in the suburb of Hayatabad, a neighborhood of two-story tract houses at the edge of the Tribal Areas, provided with all the modern conveniences— refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, and so on. Indeed, many of them lived more comfortably than bin Laden. Across the Khyber Pass was the war. The young Arabs who came to Peshawar prayed that their crossing would lead them to martyrdom and Paradise. As they passed the time, they traded legends about themselves, about the call that had drawn young Muslims to free their brothers in Afghanistan. In fact the war was being fought almost entirely by the Afghans themselves. Despite Azzam's famous fatwa and bin Laden's subsidies, there were never more than three thousand of these outsiders—who came to be known as the Arab Afghans— in the war against the Soviets, and most of them never got out of Peshawar. The Arab Afghans were often unwanted renegades in their own countries, and they found that the door closed behind them as soon as they left. Other young Muslims, prompted by their own governments to join the jihad, were stigmatized as fanatics when they did so. It would be difficult for many of them ever to return home. These abandoned idealists were naturally looking for a leader. They had little to cling to except their cause and each other. As stateless persons they naturally revolted against the very idea of the state. They saw them- 105 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER selves as a borderless posse empowered by God to defend the entire Muslim people. That was exactly bin Laden's dream. In Peshawar, they adopted new identities. Few people in the Arab community used their actual names, and it was rude to ask. In this incognito underground, a child often did not know his father's real identity. The alias usually reflected the name of the mujahid's firstborn male child or some quality that suited his personality. A common jihadi name, such as Abu Mohammed, would be followed by his nationality—al-Libi, for instance, "the Libyan/' It was a simple code but difficult to decipher, since one had to know a man's reputation or his family in order to catch the reference. It was death, not victory in Afghanistan, that summoned many young Arabs to Peshawar. Martyrdom was the product that Azzam sold in the books, tracts, videos, and cassette tapes that circulated in mosques and Arabic-language bookstores. "I traveled to acquaint people with jihad," Azzam said, recalling his lectures in mosques and Islamic centers around the world. "We were trying to satisfy the thirst for martyrdom. We are still in love with this." Azzam visited the United States each year—Kansas City, St. Louis, Dallas, all over the heartland and the major cities as well—looking for money and recruits among the young Muslims who were mesmerized by the myths he spun. He told stories of the mujahideen who defeated vast columns of Soviet troops virtually single-handed. He claimed that some of the brave warriors had been run over by tanks but survived; others were shot, but the bullets failed to penetrate. If death came, it was even more miraculous. When one beloved mujahid expired, the ambulance filled with the sound of humming bees and chirping birds, even though they were in the Afghan desert in the middle of the night. Bodies of martyrs uncovered after a year in the grave still smelled sweet and their blood continued to flow. Heaven and nature conspired to repel the godless invader. Angels rode into the battle on horseback, and falling bombs were intercepted by birds, which raced ahead of the jets to form a protective canopy over the warriors. The miracle stories naturally proliferated as word spread that Sheikh Abdullah was paying for mujahids who brought him wonderful tales. The lure of an illustrious and meaningful death was especially powerful in cases where the pleasures and rewards of life were crushed by government oppression and economic deprivation. From Iraq to Morocco, Arab governments had stifled freedom and signally 106 The Miracles failed to create wealth at the very time when democracy and personal income were sharply climbing in virtually all other parts of the globe. Saudi Arabia, the richest of the lot, was such a notoriously unproductive country that the extraordinary abundance of petroleum had failed to generate any other significant source of income; indeed, if one subtracted the oil revenue of the Gulf countries, 260 million Arabs exported less than the 5 million Finns. Radicalism usually prospers in the gap between rising expectations and declining opportunities. This is especially true where the population is young, idle, and bored; where the art is impoverished; where entertainment—movies, theater, music—is policed or absent altogether; and where young men are set apart from the consoling and socializing presence of women. Adult illiteracy remained the norm in many Arab countries. Unemployment was among the highest in the developing world. Anger, resentment, and humiliation spurred young Arabs to search for dramatic remedies. Martyrdom promised such young men an ideal alternative to a life that was so sparing in its rewards. A glorious death beckoned to the sinner, who would be forgiven, it is said, with the first spurt of blood, and he would behold his place in Paradise even before his death. Seventy members of his household might be spared the fires of hell because of his sacrifice. The martyr who is poor will be crowned in heaven with a jewel more valuable than the earth itself. And for those young men who came from cultures where women are shuttered away and rendered unattainable for someone without prospects, martyrdom offered the conjugal pleasures of seventy-two virgins—"the darkeyed houris," as the Quran describes them, "chaste as hidden pearls/' They awaited the martyr with feasts of meat and fruit and cups of the purest wine. The pageant of martyrdom that Azzam limned before his worldwide audience created the death cult that would one day form the core of al-Qaeda. For the journalists covering the war, the Arab Afghans were a curious sideshow to the real fighting, set apart by their obsession with dying. When a fighter fell, his comrades would congratulate him and weep because they were not also slain in battle. These scenes struck other Muslims as bizarre. The Afghans were fighting for their country, not for Paradise or an idealized Islamic community. For them, martyrdom was not such a high priority. Rahimullah Yusufzai, the Peshawar bureau chief for the News, a Pakistani daily, observed a camp of Arab Afghans that was under 107 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER attack in Jalalabad. The Arabs had pitched white tents on the front lines, where they were easy marks for Soviet bombers. "Why?'7 the reporter asked incredulously. "We want them to bomb us!" the men told him. "We want to die!" They believed that they were answering God's call. If they were truly blessed, God would reward them with a martyr's death. "I wish I could raid and be slain, and then raid and be slain, and then raid and be slain," bin Laden later declared, quoting the Prophet. THE QURAN IS FULL of references to jihad; some of them have to do with the inner striving for perfection, which the Prophet had called the "greater jihad," but others explicitly command the believers to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them" and to "fight those who do not believe in God . . . until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of subjection." Some Islamic scholars explain these injunctions by saying that they apply only when war is initiated by the infidels, or when Muslims are persecuted, or when Islam itself is threatened. The Quran, these thinkers point out, also bids the Muslims to "fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, and be not aggressive; surely God loves not the aggressors." Under the spell of the Afghan struggle, many radical Islamists came to believe that jihad never ends. For them, the war against the Soviet occupation was only a skirmish in an eternal war. They called themselves jihadis, indicating the centrality of war to their religious understanding. They were the natural outgrowth of the Islamist exaltation of death over life. "He who dies and has not fought and was not resolved to fight, has died a jahiliyya death," Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brothers, had declared. He added, with a bit of residual Sufi mysticism, "Death is art." The Quran explicitly states that "there is no compulsion in religion." That would seem to forbid waging war against non-Muslims and against Muslims who believe differently. Sayyid Qutb, however, scorned the notion that jihad is just a defensive maneuver to protect the community of faith. "Islam is not merely 'belief/ " he wrote. "Islam is a declaration of the freedom of man from servitude to other men. Thus it strives from the beginning to abolish all those systems and governments which are based on the rule of man over men." Qutb makes the argument that life without Islam is slavery; therefore real freedom 108 The Miracles cannot be achieved until jahiliyya is eliminated. It is only when the rule of man has been eradicated and Sharia imposed that there will be no compulsion in religion, because there is only one choice: Islam. Yet the declaration of jihad was tearing the Muslim community apart. There was never a consensus that the jihad in Afghanistan was a genuine religious obligation. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, the local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood refuted the demand to send its members to jihad, although it encouraged relief work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those who did go were often unaffiliated with established Muslim organizations and therefore more open to radicalization. Many concerned Saudi fathers went to the training camps to drag their sons home. The fierce idealists who did respond to Azzam's message viewed Afghanistan as the beginning of Islam's return to international dominance, which would see not only the liberation of the Afghans but also the eventual recapture of all the territory, from Spain to China, that had been under enlightened Muslim domination while Europe was mired in the Middle Ages. The restoration of the former empire was only the first step, however. The next stage was final war against unbelievers, culminating in the Day of Judgment. The Arab Afghans were not all suicidal or apocalyptic thinkers. They included as well the curious, the holiday fighters, the students looking for an exciting way to spend their break. Others were seeking significance that their ordinary lives didn't provide. "I was not a believer/7 Mohammed Loay Baizid, a Syrian immigrant to the United States, remembered. Twenty-four years old in 1985, he thought of himself as a typical young middle-class American man, used to shopping malls and fast food, but he had run across a mimeographed tract by Abdullah Azzam and decided that if there were miracles he would have to see them. He was studying engineering at a community college in Kansas City, Missouri, at the time. No one could tell him how to get to the war from Kansas City, so he took a plane to Islamabad and called the number on the tract. If Azzam had not answered, he didn't know what he would have done. Baizid only planned to stay for three months, but he was captivated by the strangeness of the place and the camaraderie of men who courted martyrdom. His expressive black eyebrows and constant stream of wisecracks were strikingly out of place in this sober group of holy warriors. "I went to Afghanistan with a blank mind and a good 109 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER heart," he said. "Everything was totally strange. It was like I was born just now, like I was an infant, and I have to learn everything new. It was not so easy after that to leave and go back to your regular life." He took the jihadi name Abu Rida al-Suri. Untrained but eager for action, the Brigade of Strangers agitated until Azzam agreed to take them into Afghanistan to join forces with the Afghan commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was fighting the Soviets near Jihad Wal. Bin Laden and sixty Arabs rode across the border with a single Afghan guide. Thinking that they were headed directly into battle, they had stuffed their pockets with raisins and chickpeas, most of which they consumed during the long drive. They began referring to themselves as the Brigade of the Chickpeas. Around ten that night, they finally arrived at the Afghan camp, only to learn that the Soviets had retreated. "Your presence is no longer needed," Hekmatyar impatiently told them the following morning, "so go back." Azzam immediately consented, but bin Laden and some of the other Arabs expressed their dismay. "If they have withdrawn, aren't we supposed to at least chase them?" they asked. Azzam set up some targets on fence posts so the men could have some shooting practice. Afterward, the Arabs surrendered their weapons to an Afghan commander and caught buses back to Peshawar. They began calling themselves the Brigade of the Ridiculous. When they got back to the city, they disbanded. IN 1986 BIN LADEN BROUGHT his wives and children to Peshawar, where they joined the small but growing community of Arabs responding to Sheikh Abdullah Azzam's fatwa. It was clear by then that the Afghans were winning the war. Admitting that Afghanistan was "a bleeding wound," Mikhail Gorbachev, the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, offered a timetable for the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops. That was also the year that the American-made Stinger, the hand-fired missile that proved so deadly for Russian aircraft, was introduced, decisively tipping the balance in favor of the mujahideen. Although it would take another three bloody years for the Soviets to finally extricate themselves, the presence of several thousand Arabs—and rarely more than a few hundred of them actually on the field of battle—made no real difference in the tide of affairs. 1 1 0 The Miracles Arms shipments poured into the port of Karachi. The ISI, which divvied the weapons among the Afghan commanders, needed a repository, preferably outside of Pakistan but not within the grasp of the Soviets. There is a distinctive portion of the Tribal Areas that juts into Afghanistan along a range of mountains southwest of the Khyber Pass known as the Parrot's Beak. The northern slope of the Parrot's Beak is called Tora Bora. The name means "black dust." Remote and barren, the place is rich in caves made of super-hard quartz and feldspar. Bin Laden expanded the caverns and constructed new ones to serve as armories. It was here, in the warren of ammunition caves that he built for the mujahideen, that bin Laden would one day make his stand against America. In May 1986, bin Laden led a small group of Arabs to join Afghan forces in Jaji, in Sayyaf's territory near the Pakistani border. One night the Arab tents were pelted with what seemed to be rocks, perhaps debris thrown from the occasional distant bombs. When a Yemeni cook got up to prepare the pre-dawn meal, there was a huge explosion. "God is great! God is great!" the cook cried out. "My leg! My leg!" The Arabs awakened to find mines strewn around their encampment, although they were difficult to see because they were green and disappeared in the grass. As they were evacuating the site, a guided missile struck a few yards from bin Laden. Then a huge explosion on the mountaintop spewed boulders and splintered wood upon the besieged Arabs. Three were wounded and one, an Egyptian graduate student, was killed. The Arabs were thrown into panic, and they were further humiliated when the Afghan forces asked them to leave because they were so useless. Despite this sorry display, bin Laden financed the first permanent all-Arab camp at the end of 1986, also at Jaji. This action put him at odds with his mentor, Azzam, who strongly opposed the plan. Each man was beset by a powerful and impractical dream. Azzam longed to erase the national divisions that kept the Muslim people from uniting. For that reason, he always sought to disperse the Arab volunteers among the various Afghan commands, even though few Arabs spoke the local languages or had received any practical training. They were cannon fodder. On the other hand, a fixed target such as the camp bin Laden envisioned was an extravagant waste of money and lives in the hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that the Afghans were waging. Bin Laden was already thinking of the future of jihad, and the Jaji camp was his first step toward the creation of an Arab legion that could 111 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER wage war anywhere. Until now, he had subordinated his dream to the goals of the older man, but he was beginning to feel the tug of destiny. Desperate to stop bin Laden's drift from his orbit, Azzam dispatched Jamal Khalifa to reason with him. No one could speak more frankly or with more authority to bin Laden than his old friend and brother-in-law. Khalifa rode across the Afghan border with Sayyaf, who controlled the mountainous territory around Jaji. The camp was high and cold and exposed to merciless wind. Osama—the Lion— called the place Maasada, the Lion's Den. He said he had been inspired by the lines of the Prophet's favorite poet Hassan Ibn Thabit, who wrote of another fortress of the same name: Whoever wishes to hear the clash of swords, let him come to Maasada, where he will find courageous men ready to die for the sake of God. At the time, bin Laden's version of Maasada looked nothing like the elaborate cavernous training center it eventually became. Khalifa had been a devoted Boy Scout, and in his experienced eye this filthy and disorganized site hidden in the pine trees was far below even the standards of a children's encampment. There was a bulldozer, Egyptian knockoffs of Kalashnikovs, mortars, some small anti-aircraft guns they had bought in the markets in Peshawar, and Chinese rockets without launchers. To fire a rocket, the mujahid would rest it on a rock, string a wire, and set it off from some distance away—a crazily dangerous and inaccurate procedure. Through binoculars Khalifa surveyed the Soviet base in a broad valley only three kilometers away. The Arabs were isolated and vulnerable. They had a single car that they used to smuggle water and supplies during the night, but they could easily be trapped and wiped out. They were already being carelessly expended under bin Laden's command. Khalifa was furious at the needless risk and the waste of lives. He stayed for three days, talking to the people around bin Laden— mainly Egyptians associated with Zawahiri's al-Jihad and Saudi high school students, including Khalifa's own student Wali Khan, an academic star in the biology class he taught in Medina. Khalifa learned that 1 1 2 The Miracles they had appointed bin Laden—rather than Azzam or Sayyaf—their leader. That news stunned him. He had never thought of his friend as one who would seek power. Khalifa wondered if Osama was being manipulated by the Egyptians. These suspicions mounted when Abu Ubaydah and Abu Hafs, bin Laden's tall and commanding Egyptian tenders, cornered Khalifa to sound him out about his politics. They started talking about how the leaders of the Arab countries are kafrs—a term that means infidels or unbelievers, but when applied to other Muslims signifies that they are apostates who have rejected their religion. Such traitors should be killed, many fundamentalists believe. When Khalifa disagreed with them, they tried to screen him off from bin Laden. Khalifa brushed past them; he would not be managed by strangers. Khalifa and bin Laden slept together in a foxhole with canvas sides and a wood ceiling, which had soil piled on top. His friend was so evasive that Khalifa decided he was hiding something from him. On the third day, Khalifa finally spoke out. "Everybody is angry—they are against this place," Khalifa said. "Even the people who are with you. I've talked to them." Bin Laden was shocked. "Why don't they talk to me?" he asked. "This is a question you have to ask yourself," Khalifa responded. "But everyone in Afghanistan is against this idea!" Bin Laden reiterated his vision of creating an Arab force that would defend Muslim causes everywhere. That's what he was trying to establish in this miserable mountain camp. "We came here to help the Afghans, not to form our own party!" Khalifa reminded him. "Besides, you're not a military man, so why are you here?" As they talked, their voices began to rise. In the ten years that they had known each other, they had never had an argument. "This is jihad!" bin Laden cried. "This the way we want to go to heaven!" Khalifa warned him that the lives of these men were his responsibility. "God will ask you about every drop of their blood. And since I am your friend, I cannot accept that you stay. You have to leave, or else I will leave you." Bin Laden coldly refused. Khalifa left the camp. They would never be close again. 113 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER ALTHOUGH HE REJECTED the entreaties of Khalifa and others, bin Laden was concerned about the repeated failures of the Arab brigade and the dangers his men faced in the Lion's Den. "I began thinking about new strategies, such as digging caves and tunnels/' he said. He borrowed an array of bulldozers, loaders, dump trucks, and trenching machines from the Saudi Binladin Group, along with skilled engineers, to craft seven man-made caverns, well disguised and perched above the main supply line from Pakistan. Some of the caves would be more than a hundred yards long and twenty feet high, serving as airraid shelters, dormitories, hospitals, and arms dumps. Bin Laden's men were impatient with construction work and continually pestered him for new opportunities to attack the Russians. The most vehement among them was an obese, forty-five-year-old Palestinian, Sheikh Tameem al-Adnani, a former English teacher who had become the imam at the air force base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, until he was expelled because of his radical views. A pale, fleshy man with a patchy fringe of beard that was turning gray at the temples, Sheikh Tameem turned to the lecture circuit, raising millions of dollars for the mujahideen. His scholarship and worldliness, plus his ardent longing for martyrdom, gave him an authority that rivaled that of bin Laden. Abdullah Azzam, who doted on him, called him "the Lofty Mountain." Sheikh Tameem weighed nearly four hundred pounds. His corpulence was a source of amusement to the young Arab fighters, most of whom were not over eighteen years old. They would sometimes have to tow him up the steep mountain paths with ropes, joking that the horses had memorized his face and refused to carry him any longer. But Sheikh Tameem's commitment to jihad inspired them. He trained with the others despite his age and his poor physical condition. He was constantly pushing bin Laden to throw the men into battle, giving voice to the bold and heedless elements in the camp who were lusting for death. Bin Laden managed to put him off, citing the men's lack of training and the pressing need to finish construction, but Tameem never let up. At the end of March 1987, bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia, and Sheikh Tameem took advantage of the moment. He cajoled Abu Hajer al-Iraqi, whom bin Laden had left in charge of the Lion's Den, to attack a small Soviet outpost nearby. Abu Hajer protested that he didn't have the authority to make such a decision, but Sheikh Tameem's persistence 1 1 4 The Miracles wore him down, and Abu Hajer reluctantly gave his assent. The sheikh quickly assembled fourteen to sixteen young men, who piled their heavy weapons onto a horse and began trekking down the mountain. The weapons kept sliding off the horse's back into the snow. Tameem had no plan other than to attack the Soviets and immediately retreat, nor was he entirely sure where he was going. If the Arabs actually engaged in a firefight with the enemy, Sheikh Tameem would be unable to run back up the mountain with the lithe young fighters who accompanied him. But, as usual, caution was not a feature of his scheme. Suddenly, Abu Hajer's voice crackled on the walkie-talkie. Bin Laden had returned and he was alarmed. He ordered the men back to camp immediately. 'Tell him that I will not return," Sheikh Tameem responded. Bin Laden took the radio. "Sheikh Tameem, return at once!" he commanded. "If you do not, then you will be sinful, for I am your commander, and I am ordering you to return." Tameem grudgingly agreed to give up his battle plan, but he swore that he would fast until he had the opportunity to participate in a battle. For three days after his return to the Lion's Den, he refused to eat or drink. He became so weak that bin Laden finally arranged for a small action so that Tameem could fulfill his pledge, at least symbolically. He allowed the sheikh to climb a peak and fire mortars and machine guns toward the enemy. But Sheikh Tameem continued to present a challenge to bin Laden's authority, since many of the Arabs sided with him, saying that they had come for jihad, not for camping in the mountains. "I was afraid that some of the brothers might return to their countries and tell their people that they had stayed here for six months without ever shooting a single gun," bin Laden admitted. "People might conclude that we don't need their support." He had to prove that the Arabs were not just tourists, that they were capable of making a genuine contribution to the Afghan jihad. It was unclear how long he could keep men under his command if he failed to let them fight. On April 17,1987, before the snows had fully melted, bin Laden led a force of 120 fighters to harass an Afghan government outpost near Khost. He chose to attack on a Friday because he believed Muslims all over the world would be praying for the mujahideen. Both Sayyaf, the Arabic-speaking Afghan commander, and Hekmatyar agreed to provide covering artillery fire. The attack was set for six o'clock in the evening—time enough for a quick strike, followed by darkness that 115 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER would protect the men from the Soviet aircraft that would soon be raining bombs upon them. Sheikh Tameem begged to be a part of the action, but bin Laden ordered him to remain in the Lion's Den. The impending battle was months in the planning and had been well advertised back in Peshawar. "I heard about this attack and decided to join/' Abu Rida, the Kansas City mujahid, later recalled. "I took my car. I didn't know much about the plan, but I found so many donkeys and horses carrying weapons in the valley." When he arrived at the staging area, he discovered chaos among the Arabs. At the time of the scheduled attack, none of the positions had been supplied with ammunition, which was stuck in a car at the end of a road some distance away. The men were frantically transporting rockets and mortars on their backs or on the four mules they had available. Some fighters were already so exhausted that they slipped back to the Lion's Den to sleep, and those who stayed were famished and upset because the food had run out. At the last minute, one of the commanders discovered that no one had brought the electrical wire to connect the rockets to the detonators. He dispatched a man on a horse to gallop back to camp. On top of this, bin Laden was ill—as he often was before battle— although he tried to remain composed in front of his men. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam gave a rousing speech about the need to stand firm, but before the Arabs were ready to charge, an Afghan government soldier overheard their preparations and single-handedly kept them pinned down till nightfall with a Gorjunov machine gun. Bin Laden ordered his troops to withdraw. Amazingly, only one Arab was killed and two badly injured, but their pride was shattered—they had been defeated by one man! The Afghan mujahideen were laughing at them. As a result of this fiasco, the Pakistanis began closing down the Arab guesthouses in Peshawar. It seemed that the Arab Afghan misadventure had come to an ignominious finale. The following month, a small band of Arabs engaged in another skirmish, this one planned by their Egyptian military commander, Abu Ubaydah, who led a flanking maneuver against a group of Soviet troops. "There were nine of them and myself," bin Laden later recounted. "No one hesitated." The Soviets fell back, and the Arabs were jubilant. But their brief victory prompted a stern Soviet counterattack against the Lion's Den. According to Abdullah Azzam's mythmaking account, the Soviets assembled nine or ten thousand troops—including Soviet Special Forces and Afghan regulars—against only seventy mujahideen. 116 The Miracles Sheikh Tameem pleaded with bin Laden to place him on the front lines, but bin Laden told him he was too fat for active fighting. He consigned Tameem to the communications room deep in an underground chamber. The Arabs waited until the entire Soviet convoy was within range of their three mortars. When bin Laden cried, "Allahu akhbarl" the Arabs opened fire, and the surprised Russians fell back. 'The brothers were in a state of elation and total ecstasy," Azzam wrote. They watched ambulances arriving to collect the fallen soldiers, who included the military commander of the Jaji district. Expecting another, larger Soviet counterattack, bin Laden divided his force in half, stationing thirty-five men to guard the Lion's Den. He and nine others advanced to the top of a hill, where they observed two hundred Russian Special Forces creeping toward the camp. "Suddenly, mortar rounds began to pour on us like rain/' said bin Laden. Miraculously, the Arabs escaped harm. An hour later, the Russians confidently resumed their advance. "When they reached the peak, we began our attack," bin Laden continued. "A few of them were killed, and the rest fled." For weeks, the Soviets shelled the mujahideen position around the Lion's Den with 120 mm mortars and napalm bombs, which caused such devastation that Azzam wept and prayed for the safety of the fighters. The trees burned, even in the rain, illuminating the night. One morning, in this storm of shrapnel and fire, Sheikh Tameem emerged from the communications cave with his Quran in hand and began to wander around in the clearing, ignoring the pleas of his comrades as he recited the Quran and prayed aloud for martyrdom, his round wirerimmed glasses tilted toward the sky. The ground shook and bullets and explosions tore the forest around him. It was near the end of Ramadan, and Tameem believed that his death on such an occasion would be especially blessed. This mad excursion seemed to have a calming effect on the others. "We came under fire quickly," bin Laden recalled. "When the fire stopped for about thirty seconds, I told the people I was with that I thought we were going to die. But within minutes, the fire started again and I was reading the Holy Quran until we were saved and were able to move to a different location. We hadn't moved seventy meters when we were hit again, but we felt completely safe, as if we were in an air-conditioned room." Despite the bravado, bin Laden worried that his men would all be killed if they stayed any longer. He would have to abandon the Lion's 117 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER Den. It was the worst defeat he had ever suffered. His men were shocked at his decision. When one of them protested, bin Laden "shouted at me and told me some words which I heard for the first time from him/' Sheikh Tameem bellowed and pulled the hair from his beard. "I thought he was possessed," recalled bin Laden. He scolded Tameem, saying that he was endangering all the fighters by his intransigence. "Sheikh Tameem, the men are in the car," bin Laden warned him. "If a single one of them is killed the sin will fall on your neck and you will be responsible for his blood on Judgment Day." Sobbing, Sheikh Tameem joined the other men in the van. Those who were able to walk followed behind, after destroying much of the Lion's Den so that there would be nothing for the Soviets to pillage. They rolled their cannons into the ravines and buried their automatic weapons. One of the men threw a grenade into the pantry. The camp that they had labored so mightily to construct was now a ruin. A small squad stayed behind to provide cover for the retreating guerrillas. Once again, Bin Laden was ill. "I was very tired, and could barely walk twenty meters before I had to stop and drink water. I had been under great emotional and physical duress." His ordeal had only just begun. Sayyaf was fuming when the bedraggled Arabs reached his camp. By now he had come to see the value of the Lion's Den, which overlooked a strategic caravan route for the supply of the mujahideen. He abruptly countermanded bin Laden's order and told the Arabs to return; he also sent some of his reliable Afghan warriors back to the camp with them to make sure that they held the position. Embarrassed and exhausted, the fighters returned to the Lion's Den in groups of five or ten. Dawn found twenty-five Arabs and twenty Afghans gathered in the ruins of the camp, dismally celebrating the feast day at the end of Ramadan. There was practically nothing to eat since the kitchen had been blown up. Each man received three lemons. Later in the morning, Bin Laden returned with ten more fighters. Chastened and unwilling to assert his authority, he let his Egyptian military commander, Abu Ubaydah, take charge. The sight of the needless destruction of his camp at his own hand must have been unbearable. Abu Ubaydah decided to give him something to do. "Go and guard the left side of the camp," Abu Ubaydah told him. "I think they will only enter from this place because it is the shortest path." 118 The Miracles Bin Laden led the men to a promontory and spread them out among the trees. They could see a Russian force only seventy meters away. Bin Laden called out to his men to advance, but his voice was hoarse and they didn't realize he was talking to them. He climbed a leafless tree so that they could hear him and immediately drew fire. A rocket-propelled grenade nearly knocked him out of the tree. "It passed by me and exploded nearby," bin Laden said in one account, "but I was not affected by it at all—in fact, by the Grace of Allah, the Exalted, it was as though I had merely been covered by a handful of mud from the ground. I descended calmly and informed the brothers that the enemy was in the central axis and not on the left wing." In another retelling, bin Laden's most intense experience of combat seems less composed. "There was a terrible battle, which ended up with me half sunk in the ground, firing at anything I could see." Bin Laden and his men were pinned down all day by enemy mortar fire. "I was only thirty meters from the Russians and they were trying to capture me," he said. "I was under bombardment but I was so peaceful in my heart that I fell asleep." The story of bin Laden's nap is often told as evidence of his grace under fire. He may simply have fainted. He suffered from low blood pressure, which often made him light-headed. He always carried a bag of salt with him, and whenever he felt dizzy, he would wet a finger and stick it in the bag, then suck on the salt to keep his blood pressure from sinking. Amazingly, by five o'clock in the afternoon, the Arab forces, led by Abu Ubaydah, succeeded in outflanking the enemy. Without air support, the main body of the Soviet troops withdrew. "There were only nine brothers against one hundred Russian Spetsnaz Special Forces troops, but out of sheer fright and panic in the dense forest, the Russians were unable to make out the number of brothers," bin Laden related. "All in all, about thirty-five Spetsnaz soldiers and officers were killed, and the rest fled.... The morale of the mujahideen soared, not only in our area, but in the whole of Afghanistan." He had achieved his greatest victory immediately following his worst defeat. After the battle of the Lion's Den, Abu Ubaydah gave bin Laden a trophy from a dead Russian officer—a small Kalikov AK-74 assault rifle, with a walnut stock and a distinctive rusty red ammunition magazine that marked it as the advanced paratroop version of the weapon. In the future, it would always be on his shoulder. The entire action lasted three weeks. It was actually waged more by Sayyaf (who then took over the Lion's Den) than bin Laden, but the 119 T H E L O O M I N G TOWER Arabs gained a reputation for courage and recklessness that established their legend, at least among themselves. Their guesthouses quietly reopened in Peshawar. From the Soviet perspective, the battle of the Lion's Den was a small moment in the tactical retreat from Afghanistan. In the heightened religious atmosphere among the men following bin Laden, however, there was a dizzying sense that they were living in a supernatural world, in which reality knelt before faith. For them, the encounter at the Lion's Den became the foundation of the myth that they defeated the superpower. Within a few years the entire Soviet empire fell to pieces—dead of the wound the Muslims inflicted in Afghanistan, the jihadis believed. By then they had created the vanguard that was to carry the battle forward. Al-Qaeda was conceived in the marriage of these assumptions: Faith is stronger than weapons or nations, and the ticket to enter the sacred zone where such miracles occur is the willingness to die.
99 "Now we can give the USSR": Cooley, Unholy Wars, 19. 100 170 armed Afghan militias in the mid-1980s: ibid., 232. 800,000 people . . . under their authority: interview with Abdullah Anas. Abdul Rasul Sayyaf: Jon Lee Anderson, "Letter from Kabul: The Assassins," New Yorker, June 10, 2002. lock them up in a jail: Coll, Ghost Wars, 83. "Fear of bodily participation": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 85. 101 he forfeited his share of the profit: Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 150. "surprised by the sad state": ibid. "mountains were shaking": ibid. "between five and ten million dollars": ibid., 88. 102 three hundred dollars per month: Bergen, Holy War, 56. 103 house bin Laden was renting: Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 119. twenty-five thousand dollars a month: Anonymous, Through Our Enemies' Eyes, 99; Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 198. "this heaven-sent man": Bernstein, Out of the Blue, 45. 104 to deliver cash: interview with Ahmed Badeeb and Sayeed Badeeb. According to Sayeed Badeeb, the Saudi government continued its support until bin Laden left Afghanistan in 1989. $350 to $500 million per year: private communication with Marc Sageman, who was a CIA case officer in Afghanistan at the time. he first met bin Laden in 1985: Elsewhere, he says, "Our first meeting must have taken place around 1984." "And then Mullah Omar Screamed at Me," Der Spiegel, November 2004. Turki could recruit: Clarke, Against All Enemies, 52. cashews and chocolate: Jason Burke, "The Making of bin Laden: Part 2," Observer, October 28, 2001. He built a theological library: Anonymous, Through Our Enemies' Eyes, 98. tutored at least one young Afghan warrior: Jason Burke, "The Making of bin Laden: Part 2," Observer, October 28, 2001. University of Dawa al-Jihad: Fouda and Fielding, Masterminds of Terror, 91; Cooley, Unholy Wars, 238. pitched in at Jihad, the Arabic-language magazine: Burke, Al-Qaeda, 56. 105 "small smile": interview with Khaled Khawaja. "November 1985": interview with anonymous al-Qaeda source. "Brigade of the Strangers": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 177. modern conveniences: interview with Zaynab Abdul Khadr. 398 Notes never more than three thousand: interview with Abdullah Anas. Milt Bearden, who was the CIA chief of station in Afghanistan at the time, says, "We figured there were about two thousand Arab Afghans at any one time, plus a couple thousand Arab Afghans who treated it as a Club Med"—i.e., they came for brief holidays. "This compares with about a quarter million full- or part-time Afghans, and 125,000 Soviets," Bearden says. 106 father's real identity: interview with Zayneb Ahmed Khadr. "I traveled to acquaint people": untitled Abdullah Azzam recruitment video, 1988. stories of the mujahideen: For instance, see Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, "The Signs of ar-Rahmaan in the Jihad of the Afghan," www.islamicawakening .com/viewarticle.php?articleID=877&. When one beloved mujahid expired: Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, "Abul- Mundhir ash-Shareef," www.islamicawakening.com/viewarticle.php7articleID= 3o&. was paying for mujahids: interview with Mohammed Loay Baizid. 107 if one subtracted the oil revenue: James R. Woolsey, "Defeating the Oil Weapon," Commentary, Sept. 2002. The figure is for the mid-1990s. Other statistics have been extrapolated from the authoritative Arab Human Development Report 2002. 108 "raid and be slain": Osama bin Laden, "Message to the Iraqi People," al- Jazeera, October 18,2003. "He who dies," Mitchell, Society of the Muslim Brothers, 207. "Islam is not merely 'belief ": Qutb, Milestones, 58ff.; includes other Qutb quotes that follow. life without Islam is slavery: This argument is more fully developed in Roxanne L. Euben, "Comparative Political Theory: An Islamic Fundamentalist Critique of Rationalism," Journal of Politics 59, no. 1 (February 1997): 28-55. 109 Muslim Brotherhood refuted: interview with Jamal Khashoggi. concerned Saudi fathers: interview with Mohammed al-Hulwah. 110 "Your presence is no longer needed": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 178. In 1986 bin Laden brought his wives and children: This is according to Essam Deraz, although Mohammed Loay Baizid places the date of the move in 1988. 111 Bin Laden expanded the caverns: interview with Marc Sageman. "God is great! God is great!": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 185. bin Laden financed: Jamal Ismail, "Usama bin Laden, the Destruction of the Base," al-Jazeera, June 10,1999. 112 inspired by the lines: Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 241. Soviet base: ibid., 233. single car: ibid., 216. 114 "I began thinking": "Walidee Ramama al-Aqsa Bilkhasara" [My Father Renovated al-Aqsa Mosque, with a Loss], Al-Umma al-Islamiyya, October 18,1991. skilled engineers: interview with anonymous bin Laden family spokesman. seven man-made caverns: interview with Essam Deraz. 399 Notes 114 Sheikh Tameem: interviews with Bassim A. Alim and Mohammed Loay Baizid. not over eighteen years old: Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arabfi Afghanistan, 211. 115 "Tell him that I will not return": Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 23. Sheikh Tameem never did find his martyrdom. He died the following year of a heart attack while on a speaking tour in Orlando, Florida. "afraid that some of the brothers": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 261. force of 120: Abu Muhammed in Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 97. He chose to attack on a Friday: Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan,^. 116 closing down the Arab guesthouses: interview with Mohammed Loay Baizid. "There were nine": Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 109. nine or ten thousand troops: ibid., îooff., which is the source for much of this account, along with Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arab fi Afghanistan, 3ioff., and "Walidee Ramama al-Aqsa Bilkhasara" [My Father Renovated al-Aqsa Mosque, with a Loss], Al-Umma al-lslamiyya, October 18,1991. 118 "shouted at me": Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arabfi Afghanistan, 316. "thought he was possessed": Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 30. "very tired": "Walidee Ramama al-Aqsa Bilkhasara" [My Father Renovated al-Aqsa Mosque, with a Loss], Al-Umma al-lslamiyya, October 18,1991. "guard the left side:" Mohammed, Al-Ansar al-Arabfi Afghanistan, 326. 119 "It passed by me": Osama bin Laden in Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 112,113. "There was a terrible battle": "Walidee Ramama al-Aqsa Bilkhasara" [My Father Renovated al-Aqsa Mosque, with a Loss], Al-Umma al-lslamiyya, October 18,1991. "I was only thirty meters from the Russians": Robert Fisk, "The Saudi Businessman Who Recruited Mujahideen Now Uses Them for Large-Scale Building Projects in Sudan," Independent, December 6,1993. bag of salt: interview with Jamal Khashoggi, who also spoke about bin Laden's episodes of malaria and pneumonia. There is a link between low blood pressure and diabetes, for which some have said bin Laden received insulin shots. Bergen, Holy War, 57; also, Hasin al-Binayyan, "Al-Qaeda Man Freed from Riyadh Jail Reveals It All," Arab News, November 26, 2001. However, Jamal Khalifa says that bin Laden was not diabetic. "only nine brothers": Osama bin Laden in Azzam, The Lofty Mountain, 114. (The quote has been slightly corrected for grammatical reasons that may have been caused by the translation.) gave bin Laden a trophy: interview with Mohammed Loay Baizid.