Hiding in a compound in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden spent his final years penning love letters to one of his wives and doting on his many children, while making plans for his favorite son to be heir to his empire and continuing attacks on Americans, according to documents seized by Navy SEALs the night he was killed.
A newly declassified cache of bin Laden's correspondence sheds new light on a man paranoid of Western spying and focused on keeping al-Qaida relevant in the media.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released 103 documents seized in the 2011 raid on bin Laden's compound that left him dead. A list of bin Laden's collection of books, think tank reports and other U.S. government documents, were also released.
Some of the documents show that bin Laden was obsessed with attacking Americans, insisting that attacks against U.S. embassies in Togo and Sierra Leone in Africa be carried out. The documents showed bin Laden was deeply concerned with the events of the 2010 and 2011 Arab Spring. Although he never spoke publicly about the uprising, the al-Qaida leader privately wrote letters analyzing the events and characterized them as "the most important events" in the Muslim world.
Other documents showed that al-Qaida knew it was under pressure from counterterrorism forces. One document said CIA drone attacks "led to the killing of many jihadi cadres, leaders and others," noting it was concerning and exhausting. Several documents noted the need to make trips to the Pakistan border regions only on cloudy days when American drones were less effective.
Other information revealed:
-- In what appears to be an application for prospective al-Qaida members, the form asks a series of questions, including "When did Almighty Allah bless you with this gift?", "What objectives would you would like to accomplish on your jihad path?" and "Do you wish to execute a suicide operation?"
-- One letter discussed al-Qaida operations in Somalia and an effort to kill the Ugandan president.
"As a comment on the Uganda operation, they were supposed to arrange a good plan for assassinating the President of Uganda, (Museveni), for this can affect the war there," the 2010 letter read. "However, if they cannot, they should target vital military and economic targets."
-- Bin Laden's favorite son, Hamza, 22 at the time, wrote to his father, expressing a desire to follow in his father's footsteps. Bin Laden was grooming Hamza to take over as leader.
-- Bin Laden had a large collection of English-language books, including how-to terrorism books and Bob Woodward's 2010 book, Obama's Wars.
-- Documents included numerous references related to France, including a 2009 document titled, "Nuclear France Abroad."
-- Bin Laden was worried about the continuing surveillance on him and his family. In one 2010 letter, he told his wife to "leave everything behind, including clothes, books, [and] everything that she had in Iran."
"Since the Iranians are not to be trusted, it is possible to implant a chip in some of the belongings that you might have brought along with you," he said in a letter.
-- He doted on his wife, calling her "the apple of my eye and the most precious thing I have in this world" and offered her words if he should die: "If you want to marry after me, I have no objection, but I really want for you to be my wife in paradise, and the woman, if she marries two men, is given a choice on Judgment Day to be with one of them."
The documents were released under the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act.
By Amy R. Connolly
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