Al-Qaida believed Irish Catholics may have been persuaded to support Islam, according to letters from Osama bin Laden’s last hideout which have been released.
A selection of now-declassified documents seized in last year’s raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, Pakistan was posted online last week by the US Army’s Combating Terrorism Centre.
In one document the American al-Qaida spokesman Adam Gadahn discussed in a letter to bin Laden how he had considered an appeal to the Irish to convert to Islam and that they may be sympathetic to Muslims, although he admitted their cause had been hampered by an al-Qaida attack on worshippers at a Baghdad Catholic Church.
“I was… starting to prepare a message to the Irish,” wrote Gadahn in a letter dated August 2010.
“This was after I noticed the sympathy of the Irish people to the Palestinian issue, and the soft treatment by the Irish Judicial system of the Muslims accused of terrorism, and also not participating with its troops in Bush’s Crusade wars (although it is participating within the European Union forces in training the Somali army).
“Also, what helped to prepare the message was the last economic crisis that affected Ireland a lot, thus forcing its youth to look for sources of living in the outside. The other matter is the increasing anger in Ireland towards the Catholic Church after exposing a number of sex scandals and others. The people there are moving towards secularism, after it was the most religious of atheist Europe, and why do not we face them with Islam?”
And, on the massacre at a Baghdad Catholic Church, he wrote: “This attack halted me, and I thought twice about my two project messages. As actions are more effective than words, their act and the contacts they carried during the attack, and the statement they issued later, do not help to gain people’s sympathy.”
Elsewhere, the documents revealed bin Laden was plotting new attacks on the US right up until he was killed by special forces last year but also show dark days for al Qaida and its hunkered-down leader after years of attacks by the United States and what he saw as bumbling within his own organisation and its terrorist allies.
“I plan to release a statement that we are starting a new phase to correct (the mistakes) we made,” bin Laden wrote in 2010. “In doing so, we shall reclaim, God willing, the trust of a large segment of those who lost their trust in the jihadis.”
Until the end, bin Laden remained focused on attacking Americans and coming up with plots, however improbable, to kill US leaders.
He wished especially to target airplanes carrying General David Petraeus and even President Barack Obama, reasoning that an assassination would elevate an “utterly unprepared” Vice President Joe Biden into the presidency and plunge the US into crisis.
But a US analysts’ report released along with bin Laden’s correspondence describes him as upset over the inability of spin-off terrorist groups to win public support for their cause, their unsuccessful media campaigns and poorly planned plots that, in bin Laden’s view, killed too many innocent Muslims.
Bin Laden adviser Adam Gadahn urged him to disassociate their organisation from the acts of al Qaida’s spin-off operation in Iraq, known as AQI, and bin Laden told other terrorist groups not to repeat AQI’s mistakes.