The Black Banners: 911 and the War Against Al-Qaeda by Ali H. Soufan & Daniel Freedman

The Black Banners: 911 and the War Against Al-Qaeda by Ali H. Soufan & Daniel Freedman

Author:Ali H. Soufan & Daniel Freedman
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Tags: Non-Fiction: History
ISBN: 9780393079425
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Published: 2011-09-01T00:00:00+00:00

It inspires horror in the harbor and in the open sea.

She sails into the waves

Flanked by arrogance, haughtiness and false power.

To her doom she moves slowly

A dinghy awaits her, riding the waves.

In June 2001, Hamdan and Nashiri were sitting together in a guesthouse in Kandahar, and their conversation turned to the Cole. Nashiri, laughing, told Hamdan that while transporting the boat to be used for the operation, he had been stopped by a Yemeni policeman, who had asked to see the requisite papers for the craft. He didn’t have any papers, so instead he had convinced the officer to turn a blind eye to the incident with “qat money.” How easy it was to bribe a policeman in Yemen, Nashiri thought to himself, flushed with this success.

Hamdan was struck by how Nashiri gloried in his own role in the operation, failing to credit even Khamiri and Nibras, who were heavily involved in the planning and, of course, had lost their lives. This especially upset Hamdan, as the men had been friends of his. He and Khamiri had fought together in the front lines against the Northern Alliance. Nibras had been a witness at his wedding in Yemen. It was the last time Hamdan had seen him.

After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, an office used by al-Qaeda’s military committee was raided. One of the documents found, in a plastic sleeve, was Hasan al-Khamiri’s martyrdom letter. It was his farewell to his brothers. In the letter he spoke about jihad and al-Qaeda, and said his good-byes. On the side of the letter were doodles, with flowers on them.

September 9, 2001. After a long day working in Sanaa, George, Bob, and I were preparing to head to sleep in the room we were sharing in the Sheraton Hotel when the news came through that Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, had been assassinated.

Two men claiming to be Belgian journalists of Moroccan origin had met with him for an interview and had blown up their camera’s battery pack, which was filled with explosives, killing him. We later learned that their letter of introduction had been forged by Zawahiri and that they were Tunisian members of al-Qaeda.

Massoud was a committed Muslim and had been endorsed by many Islamic leaders, including Abdullah Azzam, who declared, after meeting him, “I have seen the true Islamic jihad, and it is Massoud.” But he opposed the Taliban and al-Qaeda, seeking a moderate alternative.

Massoud was a national hero, and his death meant the splintering of the Northern Alliance. His reputation and charisma were instrumental in keeping his group united, and he was one of the few unifying figures who could command the respect of most of the country.

I confided to George and Bob my fear that the assassination was not strictly about Massoud and the Taliban; that it was an action with wider meaning and resonance. “This is bigger. Al-Qaeda is trying to do something huge, and needs the Taliban’s support—so they killed Massoud, something the Taliban would be forever grateful for.


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