x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Osama bin Laden's Pakistan home was 'command-and-control centre' for al Qa'eda

Evidence seized in raid on Abbottabad compound showed Bin Laden was eager to strike American cities again and discussed ways to attack trains, US officials say.

Egyptian protesters chant anti-American slogans and hold a picture of Osama Bin Laden during a protest held by Islamist groups against the killing of Bin Laden, in front of the US embassy in Cairo.
Egyptian protesters chant anti-American slogans and hold a picture of Osama Bin Laden during a protest held by Islamist groups against the killing of Bin Laden, in front of the US embassy in Cairo.

WASHINGTON // Intelligence experts will mine the secrets of Osama bin Laden as they sort through a trove of material seized during the raid on his Pakistan compound. The documents have already shown that bin Laden was actively involved in planning and directing al Qa'eda's plots.

Notes and computer material gathered by Navy Seals after the raid revealed bin Laden's home was a command-and-control centre for the terrorist network, said a US intelligence official who briefed reporters and insisted his name not be used.

Bin Laden was eager to strike American cities again and discussed ways to attack trains, officials said, though it appeared that plan never progressed beyond early discussions.

CIA director Leon Panetta said: "The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden. Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."

A handful of videos released on Saturday show bin Laden appearing hunched and tired, seated on the floor, watching television, wrapped in a wool blanket and wearing a knit cap. Out-takes of his propaganda tapes show that they were heavily scripted affairs. He dyed and trimmed his beard for the cameras, then shot and reshot his remarks until the timing and lighting were just right. The new material shows bin Laden in a much more candid, unflattering light than the rare propaganda videos that trickled out during his life portraying him as a charismatic religious figure unfazed at being the target of a worldwide manhunt.

The new videos picture a shabby, makeshift office in which bin Laden watched newscasts of himself from a tiny television perched atop a rickety old desk cluttered with wires.

Officials said the clips shown to reporters were just part of the largest collection of terrorist materials ever collected. The evidence seized also includes phone numbers and documents that officials hope will help break the back of the organization.

The videos showing "out-takes" - the miscues by bin Laden that were destined for the cutting-room floor - were offered as further proof of bin Laden's death. President Barack Obama decided last week not to release photos of bin Laden's body, which were deemed too gruesome to reveal and could be used as anti-American propaganda. The US has said it confirmed bin Laden's death using DNA.

By selecting unflattering clips of bin Laden, the US is trying to shatter the image he worked so hard to craft.

One video clearly shows the terror leader choosing and changing channels with a remote control, which he points at what appears to be a satellite cable box. US officials have previously said there was a satellite dish for television reception but no internet or phone lines ran to the house. Cellphones were prohibited on the compound.

It's unclear how many tapes were taken from the house, and US officials say they're scouring the intelligence so quickly it has not even been catalogued and counted.

Among the material handed out was an al Qa'eda propaganda video, apparently intended for public release, entitled "Message to the American People," probably filmed sometime last autumn, the official said. Bin Laden has not released a video since 2007, and officials were not sure why this one had not been released.

The official said the short taped message denigrated capitalism and included anti-American messages similar to his previous tapes, but he refused to say if it included a direct threat against the United States. The government released the video without sound because it did not want to disseminate a terrorist message.

Al Qa'eda has confirmed the death of its founder, but did not announce a successor.