Fears of US action against Shaikh Osama bin Laden were further raised on August 9, when US military aircraft carrying commandos were reported to have landed at Islamabad and Quetta airports. Speaking at a rally later the same day, Maulana Fazalur Rahman, head of the pro-Taleban Jami’at Ulama-e Islam (JUI), informed people of the troops’ arrival and said that retaliationary action would be taken against American targets in Pakistan if the US acted against bin Ladin.
Other recent information suggesting that action against Osama may be imminent has led to statements of support from his allies. On July 30, two massive rallies were held in Jalalabad and Khost, in Afghanistan, condemning US propaganda and efforts to have him extradited on spurious charges. On the same day, a rally was also organised by the JUI in Islamabad.
Following the Islamabad rally, the US embassy officially protested to Maulana Fazalur Rahman in a 90-minute meeting on August 3. “The purpose of this meeting was to express concern over threats by Maulana Fazalur Rahman and party members,” a US embassy spokesman said, according to Reuters on August 3. Maulana Fazalur Rahman, however, was unrepentant. He told Reuters Television that if Afghanistan were attacked, American interests would be too. He said he told the embassy official: “If because of you people [the Americans], we are not safe in our land, then you too should not feel safe in our territory.”
A year ago, on August 20, 1998, US ships in the Arabian Sea fired some 50 cruise missiles at Afghanistan killing more than 30 people, most of them Kashmiri mujahideen sleeping in the open. The same day, some 75 missiles were also fired at the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, which the US alleged was making an ingredient for chemical weapons. The factory was completely destroyed and the assets of its owner, Saleh Idris, in the US were frozen. He challenged the US decision in an American court, and in May the Americans quietly released his assets, in a clear admission that their allegations against the factory were false and they had in fact carried out a terrorist act against Sudan.
This embarrasment, however, will not deter the US from perptrating similar crimes against other innocent people around the world. That is why the threat by Maulana Fazalur Rahman caused such jitters among American officials. The JUI has organised a series of rallies amid reports that three US ships were sighted off the Pakistani coast last month. This led to speculation that another attack against Osama was imminent.
Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly evident that the charges against Osama are baseless. In a front page article, the Washington Post on August 1 admitted that “for all its claims about a worldwide conspiracy to murder Americans, the government’s case is, at present, largely circumstantial. The indictment never explains how bin Laden runs al-Qaeda [his organisation] or how he may have masterminded the embassy bombings. Only eight of the 17 suspects are alleged to have been in Kenya and Tanzania around the time the embassies were bombed.”
The paper went on to point out that whatever evidence the US has against Osama “may not be usable in court, either because of the way it was obtained or because making it public would reveal US intelligence sources and methods.”
The American government is obsessed with Osama. He tops the list of suspects for whose capture it has already offered US$5 million. The trail of suspects, however, is becoming thin and evidence murky. The evidence compiled by the FBI traces a web of relationships that allegedly link Osama and his followers to a series of “fatwas” that call for killing Americans if they do not leave the Arabian peninsula.
“To imply something too organized, too hierarchical, misses the reality,” Brian Jenkins, a so-called terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation, told the Washington Post. “We’re obliged to talk about universes of like-minded fanatics - nothing that appears like a wiring diagram western bureaucrats are familiar with.” The government’s indictment describes this global organization in terms that sound like the Mafia, with members who “made bay’ah” - swore allegiance - to Osama and signed written contracts enforceable by a Judicial Committee of al-Qaeda leaders. “The numbers are murky as to the size of this problem,” said Robert M. Blitzer, former chief of the FBI’s domestic terrorism section.
“But the portrait of al-Qaeda - Arabic for ‘the Base’ - that emerges from hundreds of pages of court filings looks less like a tight-knit group under one man’s command than a disjointed, shadowy confederation of extremists from all over the Islamic world,” the paper said. In the article the paper details the apprehension of various suspects around the world and their plight while being held, without charge in many cases.
Western media reports persistently misrepresent Osama’s call for the withdrawal of American troops from the Arabian peninsula, which is territory where the presence of non-Muslims is forbidden, to a general call to kill Americans anywhere. The Americans, meanwhile, kill innocent people around the world, allegedly in pursuit of their “national interests.”
Defence attorneys in the embassy bombings case say the US prosecutors are exaggerating the scope of al-Qaeda’s alleged conspiracy, damaging the reputations of countless American Muslims and others in the process. “This is not a well-organized, hierarchical organization,” one defence lawyer told the Post. “This is not the Pentagon. But as the prosecution wants to view it like that, they are sweeping with an enormously broad broom.”
Muslimedia: August 16-31, 1999