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Why Bin Laden disapproved of Al Qaeda in Yemen, Iraq, and Somalia

Osama bin Laden held some of the Al Qaeda franchises in disdain, according to the 17 letters released. Bin Laden also ordered an attack in 2010 on Air Force One, Obama's plane.

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Afghanistan was also on his mind: he wrote that "Jihad (Islamic holy war) in Afghanistan is a duty." He also expressed concern about "operations that the brothers in Yemen are intending to conduct using poison," that there should be study of potential political and media reaction against the "mujahidin and their image in the eyes of the public."

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The week before he was killed in a secret operation by U.S. Navy SEALs, bin Laden offered instructions on how to handle French hostages held by "brothers in the Islamic Maghreb." If the hostages had to be killed, it should be done after events in Libya, but he suggested it would be better to exchange a female hostage, and at a minimum keep the most important male hostage until French elections.

He wrote that a British officer captured by "our brothers in Somalia" should be traded for "our prisoners."

Bin Laden also worried that children of militants who lived in cities were "one of the most important security issues" and advocated keeping control o f them by not taking them out of their homes except for medical care. Parents were also urged to teach their children the local language so they would blend in.

In an earlier letter dated Oct. 20, 2010, bin Laden was worrying about militants' cars being targeted, apparently for surveillance or attack.

"A warning to the brothers: they should not meet on the road and move in their cars because many of them got targeted while they were meeting on the road. They also should not enter the market in their cars," he wrote.

He worried about the safety of one of his sons: "Regarding my son Hamzah and his mother, I wish you take all the security precautions that were mentioned before in order to disrupt surveillance on him. He should move only when the clouds are heavy."


A main conclusion of the West Point analysis is that bin Laden regarded many of al Qaeda's affiliated groups, including the ones feared by the West, with dismay bordering on contempt.

U.S. and European intelligence officials have said Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, has emerged as the most dangerous affiliate.

But seized correspondence shows that bin Laden worried about AQAP and urged its leadership to focus on attacking the United States rather than the Yemeni government or security forces.

The confiscated material also shows that the actions of another affiliate, Al Qaeda in Iraq, were of great concern to bin Laden, especially its ruthless attacks on Shi'ite civilians following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Bin Laden also apparently wanted to keep al Qaeda's Somalia-based affiliate, Al Shabaab, at arm's length, because he was concerned about its poor organization, management and brutality, the study said.

Bin Laden's relationship with the TTP, one of the main Pakistan-based Taliban groups, was so strained that the group almost came into "direct and public confrontation" with al Qaeda's central leadership over its indiscriminate attacks on Muslim civilians, the study said.

Videotapes and audiotapes from bin Laden were broadcast sporadically during the decade he was in hiding. In a letter dated Aug. 27, 2010, the al Qaeda leader gave detailed instructions about how to get the message out. He wanted it timed for the upcoming Sept. 11 anniversary. (Editing by David Storey and Peter Cooney)

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