24 August 1998
(Terrorism expert expects bin Ladin to act) (930) By William B. Reinckens USIA Staff Writer Washington -- "Diplomacy may be the best weapon to bring (Usama) bin Ladin to justice," Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East and terrorism expert at the U.S. Library of Congress said in an August 24 interview about bin Ladin and the course the United States might take to bring him to justice following the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. President Clinton signed an executive order seizing bin Ladin's assets August 21, the day after the U.S. military strike at terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan believed to be associated with bin Ladin's operations. According to a State Department fact sheet, issued August 22, "The bin Ladin network is multi-national and has established a worldwide presence. Senior figures in the network are also senior leaders in other Islamic terrorist networks." These include terrorist groups such as the Egyptian al-Gama'At al-Islamiyya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. "Bin Ladin and his network seek to provoke a war between Islam and the West and the overthrow of existing Muslim governments, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia," the fact sheet stated. Bin Ladin's organization calls itself the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders. His network has been linked to the threat to kill U.S. servicemen in Yemen en route to a humanitarian mission in Somalia in 1992, according to the fact sheet. The network has also "plotted the deaths of Americans and other peace keepers in Somalia who were there to deliver food to starving Muslim people," and "assisted Egyptian terrorists who tried to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak in 1995 and who have killed dozens of tourists in Egypt in recent years," according to the fact sheet. The Egyptian Jihad "conducted a car bombing against the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan in 1995" and bin Ladin's network "plotted to blow up U.S. airliners in the Pacific and separately conspired to kill the Pope." Further, the fact sheet states, bin Ladin's "followers bombed a joint U.S. and Saudi military training mission in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995." Bin Ladin "has got to be brought to ground and be turned over to U.S. law enforcement authorities," Katzman said in his interview. The Taliban and the Government of Pakistan, in his view, could be instrumental in aiding this effort. "The Taliban cannot allow bin Ladin to become a state within a state," the CRS specialist said, referring to the Taliban's recent warning to the expatriate Saudi dissident not to threaten the United States from Afghanistan soil. "They have warned bin Ladin before not to attack any other state," Katzman said, adding that the Taliban moved him from Jalalabad, near the Pakistan border, to Kandahar to keep a watchful eye on him after he arrived in June 1996 from Sudan. "The Taliban is interested in getting itself recognized as the legitimate government so it can claim the Afghanistan seat at the United Nations," Katzman said. This, it is felt, might help enhance the Taliban's international standing. Knowing Pakistan might want the U.S. to roll back the economic sanctions imposed because of recent nuclear tests, Katzman said he believes that "at some point bin Ladin might become expendable to them." "Essentially, if they lose their well-financed patron they have no place to go," Katzman said about bin Ladin's estimated 3,000 to 4,000 followers who are scattered around the world in different Muslim countries. Many of these supporters have been with him for 20 years and formed bonds of loyalty during the war in Afghanistan. In February, bin Ladin announced a broad coalition which includes members of his Islamic Front, Egyptian radical groups, two Pakistani radical groups, and a Bangladesh radical Islamic group. Kaztman views bin Ladin as a person who wants to expel "infidel armies from Islamic holy lands, whether that be expelling Soviets from Afghanistan or the U.S. from Saudi Arabia. The two are equivalent in his mind." Bin Ladin's terrorist tactics have shifted with the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, noted Katzman. "He's globalized it because the U.S. is so powerful. He apparently feels that hitting the U.S. anywhere will help in his objective. Bin Ladin is now viewed by many in the Middle East as someone who has taken his message directly to the United States, although clearly "there are many people who do not support such violent actions toward that end," he noted. Katzman says that bin Ladin is viewed by people in the region more as an "operational guerrilla leader because his religious credentials are weak." "He's certainly planning retaliation, that's for sure" said Katzman. "What form that's going to take, who knows?" "He will try to hit the U.S. where it doesn't expect him to attack," Katzman said. He also does not rule out bin Ladin's use of chemical or nerve agents or the use of more traditional terrorist weapons such as car bombs or shoulder-held missiles in any retaliatory attack on the U.S. What they are afraid of is making him into a bigger political force than what he is now," said Katzman about the Arab world's official response to the U.S. embassy bombings and the retaliatory air strikes. Today, bin Ladin has the money to "provide the patronage" to terrorist organizations, said Katzman. "If the patron is decapitated the whole network dissolves."