Bin Laden warns of new attacks on U.S., Israel

By Pamela Constable

The Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The car windows were blackened to hide the route and destination. The house was heavily guarded, and the visitor could see only the mud-walled room around him, with several bearded, turbaned men sitting on low cushions. One of them was Osama bin Laden.

Bakr Atiani, a TV reporter with the Saudi-owned, London-based Middle East Broadcasting Center, received a phone call last month inviting him to Afghanistan to meet bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive wanted by U.S. officials on charges of planning the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and suspected of involvement in the attack on a U.S. warship in Yemen.

Bin Laden uttered only occasional pleasantries, letting aides do most of the talking during the rare three-hour meeting in his desert hideaway in southern Afghanistan, Atiani said. His reticence was apparently in keeping with his pledge to the Afghan authorities who harbor him that he will not use his Afghan base as a launching pad for political statements or foreign adventures. But his aides delivered a message that was direct, clear and chilling.

"They said there would be attacks against American and Israeli facilities within the next several weeks," recounted Atiani, who is based in Islamabad. "I am 100 percent sure of this, and it was absolutely clear they had brought me there to hear this message."

Atiani said the reclusive bin Laden, who has rarely granted interviews and has previously been reported to be in ill health, seemed healthy, calm and confident.

"He didn’t say much, but I could feel his confidence. He smiled and he looked like he had put on weight," Atiani said. Although the compound was clearly located in southern Afghanistan, the reporter said he saw only Arabs during his visit. "It felt like bin Laden had his own Arab kingdom in southern Afghanistan," he said.

The broadcast report of the meeting in late June came at a time when videotapes described as bin Laden-produced recruiting materials were circulating in the Middle East, and U.S. intelligence services were detecting evidence of suspicious activity around some U.S. embassies. As a result, all U.S. military forces in the Middle East were placed on high alert, and U.S. embassies and military facilities across the region were warned to expect attacks.

So far, no attacks have occurred, and officials of the Taliban, the Islamic militia that controls most of Afghanistan, have adamantly reiterated that bin Laden is under strict orders not to abuse the protection they provide for him.

Reports of new threats by bin Laden set off a flurry of speculation in Pakistan recently that the United States was planning a bombing raid or commando attack on Afghanistan. After the African embassy bombings, Washington retaliated with cruise missile attacks on military training camps allegedly operated by bin Laden inside Afghanistan.

In the past several weeks, U.S. officials have attempted in vain to persuade Pakistani authorities to use their influence with the Taliban to rein in bin Laden. In Washington, officials met with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Abdul Sattar, who reportedly told them Pakistan has little power over the Taliban and needs to maintain cordial relations with the group because of Afghanistan’s strategic location and long-standing friendship.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Arif Ghouseat flips through his work binder in his office conference room Paine Field on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Paine Field Airport director departing for Sea-Tac job

Arif Ghouse, who oversaw the launch of commercial air travel at Paine Field, is leaving after eight years.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Public school enrollment still down, even as rural districts grow

Smaller districts in Snohomish County seem to be recovering more quickly — and gaining students — than their urban counterparts.

Josiah Degenstein
Lake Stevens man with alleged white supremacist ties faces gun charges

Storage units belonging to Josiah Degenstein contained multiple arsenals, according to police.

Maricel Samaniego, center, teaches English to Liedith Espana, left, and Nemecio Rios, right, at Liberty Elementary School in Marysville, Washington, on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. Marysville schools partner with Everett Community College to offer free English classes to parents of multilingual students. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Free English class helps Marysville parents lower language barrier

The school district partners with EvCC to teach practical classes on pronunciation, paperwork and parent-teacher conferences.

Firefighters works through rescue drills during the Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue’s annual Water Rescue Academy on the Skykomish River Thursday afternoon in Index, Washington on May 5, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish Regional Fire asks voters for two more commissioners

The district currently has seven commissioners, but it can keep only five. A Feb. 14 special election could change that.

Photo by David Welton
A federal grant will help pay for the cost of adding a charging station to the Clinton ferry terminal.
Federal money to help electrify Clinton ferry dock

The Federal Transit Administration awarded state ferries a $4.9 million grant to help electrify the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

News logo for use with stories about coronavirus COVID-19 COVID
5 things to watch in Snohomish County as COVID public emergency ends

Snohomish County health care leaders shared what they’re concerned about when the federal emergency expires May 11.

Angelica Montanari and daughter Makena, 1, outside of the Community Health Center of Snohomish County Everett-Central Clinic on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Amid patient woes, CHC of Snohomish County staffers push for a union

Doctors and nurse practitioners are worried about providers being shut out from clinical decisions, which hurts patient care.

Students make their way after school at Edmonds-Woodway High School on March 12, 2020. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After Edmonds schools internet outage, staff ‘teaching like it’s the 1900s’

“Suspicious activities” on the district’s network delayed classes and caused schedule havoc. “Kids are using pencil and paper again.”

Most Read