US releases 17 documents seized at Bin Laden compound | News | DW | 03.05.2012
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US releases 17 documents seized at Bin Laden compound

The US has released 17 documents found over a year ago when special forces raided a compound in Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden. The letters published portray a man frustrated by his underlings' incompetence.

Pakistani soldiers and policemen, as well as reporters are seen on the site of Bilal town, Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 3rd, 2011, a day after the U.S. commando operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaida founder who was living and hiding there. Photo by Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM

Pakistan Terror Haus Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad

As part of a string of activities apparently marking the anniversary of the death of Osama Bin Laden, the US authorized the release of 17 documents discovered in the fatal raid on his home in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011.

"On the basis of the 17 declassified documents, Bin Ladin was not, as many thought, the puppet master pulling the strings that set motion jihadi groups around the world," the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) says in its introduction to the documents. "Bin Ladin was burdened by what he saw as their incompetence."

The CTC spells Osama Bin Laden's name 'Usama Bin Ladin.'

Bin Laden is portrayed in the letters as worried that al Qaeda attacks were causing too many "unnecessary" civilian, Muslim casualties, with the former leader of the terrorist group writing of "the need to cancel other attacks due to the possible and unnecessary civilian casualties" in Muslim countries.

This undated photo shows al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was concerned about Muslim casualties and a lack of focus in al Qaeda attacks

"I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct [the mistakes] we made," Bin Laden apparently wrote in a 2010 letter. "In doing so, we shall reclaim, God willing, the trust of a large segment of those who lost their trust in the jihadis."

Master of puppets?

The CTC is a US Army organization at West Point described on its website as "an independent, privately funded, research and educational institution … that informs and shapes counterterrorism policy and strategy." The 17 papers, with various high-profile authors, are draft letters dated from September 2006 to April 2011. The CTC says in its introduction to the mini-cache - 175 pages in the original Arabic, 197 when translated into English - that it has no way of knowing whether the electronic data ever reached its intended recipients.

The letters released make up just a fraction of the roughly 100 pieces of computer or data storage equipment initially seized from the Pakistani compound in Abbottabad.

The documents' apparent authors include Bin Laden, his adviser Adam Gadahn - a US national - al Qaeda's then second-in-command Abu Yahya al-Libi, and Libyan national Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was killed in a drone strike in August last year.

Bin Laden's preoccupation with targeted attacks on the US and leading political figures is also highlighted in the documents, with him at one point saying he wanted to target planes carrying top figures like General David Petraeus or President Barack Obama, hoping that an "utterly unprepared" Vice President Joe Biden be promoted into the role.

Yet the CTC's appraisal of the target of probably the highest-profile manhunt in world history concludes that al Qaeda leader Bin Laden was "not in sync on the operational level with its so-called affiliates" and "enjoyed little control over either groups affiliated with al Qaeda in name or so-called fellow travelers."

msh/mz (AFP, AP, Reuters)