Secret Osama bin Laden files reveal al Qaeda membership
A FULL list of al-Qaeda members first discovered in Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan has been published, disclosing the various fates of the terrorist movement's followers.
The list, dated August 7 2002, carries a total of 170 names with bin Laden himself registered at number 1. Notes have been added beside many of the names, recording a variety of fates, notably that of Abu Ubaydeh al-Banshiri, who "died in Lake Victoria" in East Africa in 1996.
Another al-Qaeda member - named as Hamad al-Kuwaiti - is recorded as being "detained in England" in 1998, perhaps after the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August of that year.
Another, registered only as Khaleefah, apparently "cooperated with the Omani government" - suggesting that he defected from al-Qaeda to aid an Arab regime considered one of its foremost enemies.
Other al-Qaeda fighters seem to have given up the struggle and chosen simply to return home.
Abu al-Hussein al-Libi is down as having "resigned" from the terrorist network in 1995, while Omar al-Uswani apparently "returned home".
The list also provides a vivid picture of the pressures on bin Laden's followers. Abdul Rauf al-Maghribi "broke down psychologically" and is recorded as betraying some of the "brothers in Saudi Arabia".
Meanwhile, four al-Qaeda members are registered as being "martyred in Chechnya", where they apparently travelled to fight the Russian army during the war in that breakaway region in the 1990s.
Another, named as Ahmed Hussein, is recorded as being "discharged", suggesting that al-Qaeda had a procedure for allowing those who had served the movement to have an honourable retirement. Some appear to have done their utmost to resume normal lives. Abu Majid, who appears as member number 79, is down as going to "Yemen to study".
bin Laden worried about Al-Qaeda attacks causing "unnecessary" Muslim casualties and advised his deputies to take more care to spare civilian lives.
The Al-Qaeda chief, killed in a US raid a year ago, underscores "the need to cancel other attacks due to the possible and unnecessary civilian casualties" in Muslim countries, according to the letter.
"We ask every emir in the regions to be extremely keen and focused on controlling the military work," he wrote, referring to Al-Qaeda attacks.
Bin Laden expressed concern about his network losing the sympathy of Muslims and described operations killing Muslims as "mistakes," adding that was important that "no Muslims fall victim except when it is absolutely essential."
"It would lead us to winning several battles while losing the war at the end," he wrote.
Until the end, bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots, however improbable, to kill U.S. leaders. He wished especially to target airplanes carrying Gen. David Petraeus and even President Barack Obama, reasoning that an assassination would elevate an "utterly unprepared" Vice President Joe Biden into the presidency and plunge the U.S. into crisis.
But a U.S. analysts' report released along with bin Laden's correspondence describes him as upset over the inability of spinoff terrorist groups to win public support for their cause, their unsuccessful media campaigns and poorly planned plots that, in bin Laden's view, killed too many innocent Muslims.
Bin Laden adviser Adam Gadahn urged him to disassociate their organization from the acts of al-Qaida's spinoff operation in Iraq, known as AQI, and bin Laden told other terrorist groups not to repeat AQI's mistakes.
The correspondence includes letters by then-second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi, taking Pakistani offshoot Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan to task over its indiscriminate attacks on Muslims. The al-Qaida leadership "threatened to take public measures unless we see from you serious and immediate practical and clear steps towards reforming (your ways) and dissociating yourself from these vile mistakes that violate Islamic Law," al-Libi wrote.
And bin Laden warned the leader of Yemeni AQAP, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, against attempting a takeover of Yemen to establish an Islamic state, instead saying he should "refocus his efforts on attacking the United States."
Bin Laden also seemed uninterested in recognizing Somali-based al-Shabab when the group pledged loyalty to him because he thought its leaders were poor governors of the areas they controlled and were too strict with their administration of Islamic penalties, like cutting off the hands of thieves.