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U.S. Releases Documents From Bin Laden Compound

  • RFE/RL

A journalist looks at original documents on a computer screen released by the Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point military academy, in Washington, D.C.

A journalist looks at original documents on a computer screen released by the Combating Terrorism Center at the West Point military academy, in Washington, D.C.

A selection of declassified documents seized in last year's raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hideout has been posted online by the U.S. Army's Combating Terrorism Center.

The 17 documents dating from September 2006 to April 2011 reveal that bin Laden, who was killed in a U.S. raid on May 2, 2011, was unhappy with many of the terrorist group's branches and unable to control their activities.

The Al-Qaeda leader considered the Yemen branch to be poorly led and overly focused on internal targets instead of on U.S. attacks. Al-Qaeda in Iraq worried him because of its tactic of killing Shi'ite civilians. The group's Somalia-based affiliate, Al-Shabaab, displeased him because of its poor organization and brutal tactics.

A letter from bin Laden's then-second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, even criticizes Pakistani offshoot Tehrik-e Taliban for its indiscriminate attacks on Muslims.

The letter says that the Al-Qaeda leadership was threatening "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."

Attacking America Paramount

The cache of documents also shows that bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots to kill U.S. leaders until the end.

He even planned to release a statement about "starting a new phase to correct [the mistakes]" of the past, seemingly to mark the start of a renewed campaign of terror attacks.

He writes of wanting to target a plane carrying U.S. President Barack Obama, reasoning that it would thrust Vice President Joseph Biden -- whom bin Laden called "utterly unprepared" -- into the presidency and trigger a crisis in the country.

Other documents suggest that the terrorist group had a strained relationship with Iran.

Letters reveal its exasperation with the way Tehran dealt with members of bin Laden's family who fled to Iran after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The relatives were placed under house arrest by Tehran, and some -- not all -- were released over the years.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who became Al-Qaeda's No. 2 after bin Laden's death, expressed annoyance at Iran's resistance to negotiations, writing, "The criminals did not send us any letter, nor did they send us a message through any of the brothers."

In another document, bin Laden describes his "trusted Pakistani brothers," but does not identify any Pakistani official who might have been aware or complicit in his secret life in Abbottabad.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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