Documents: Bin Laden wanted to charter planes for 9/11 attacks, target rail lines, blow up international tankers

Newly translated documents seized during the raid that killed bin Laden reveal plans for al-Qaeda associates to charter a plane rather than divert one for a post-9/11 attack on the United States If the chartering was too difficult, Bin Laden said US railroads should be targeted.

Author and Islamic scholar Nelly Lahoud said 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi that bin Laden, who had a degree in civil engineering, explained exactly how to do it in a 2004 letter.

“He wanted to have 12 meters of steel rail removed so that that way the train could derail. And we find him explaining the simple toolkit they could use,” Lahoud said. “You know, he said, ‘You could use a compressor. You could use a melting tool.'”

Fortunately, he was never able to execute his plan.

According to Lahoud, who analyzed thousands of pages of documents, al-Qaeda was gutted by the war. After 9/11, bin Laden fled and did not communicate with al-Qaeda associates for three years, during which time senior leaders were killed or forced into hiding – making the organization rudderless terrorist.

She read a letter from Tawfiq, a young associate who ran al-Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He told bin Laden how incapable the terrorist organization had become.

β€œThe weakness, the failure and the lack of a goal that happened to us was heartbreaking,” Tawfiq wrote. “We Muslims have been defiled and desecrated. Our state has been torn apart, our lands have been occupied, our resources have been plundered.”

Lahoud said the letter shows bin Laden did not realize the weakened state of al-Qaeda.

“And [Tawfiq] actually warns him that “I will tell you the truth as it is”. And I know some of the brothers here don’t tell you everything in detail because they don’t want to upset you, especially because of the delicate situations you are in,” Lahoud said.

This delicate situation was bin Laden’s hidden life.

Al-Qaeda was also short of cash. Documents showed that in 2006 Al Aaeda had just $200,000 in its coffers and was unable to sustain or control an increasingly fractured jihad, Lahoud said.

Yet bin Laden continued to plot, Lahoud told Alfonsi. She showed 60 Minutes a letter which outlined her plan for another terror attack in 2010. This time, he wanted to target several oil tankers and major shipping routes around the Middle East and Africa.

“He says, ‘It doesn’t escape you the importance of oil to the industrialized economy today. And it’s like blood to human beings. So if you’re causing someone to bleed excessively, even if you don’t kill him, you at least weaken him. And that’s – he really – what he really wanted to do for the American economy,” Lahoud said.

She said bin Laden detailed how al-Qaeda operatives should integrate into these port areas as fishermen. He told them exactly where to buy a specific type of wooden boat to escape radar, then went into the granular details of his plan.

“Boats should carry a large volume of explosives, preferably placed in a hunched position, facing the vessel,” the letter read.

But his latest plan of attack seems to have been halted by something he never saw coming, the Arab Spring. According to a family diary, a single item seized during the raid, the peaceful protests were puzzling and concerning for the bin Ladens.

“On some level, they were very excited that the people were able to overthrow dictators,” Lahoud said. “But at the same time, there were all these question marks about ‘What’s the value of jihad right now?’ And we really find this throughout this book: Is jihad still necessary?

Lahoud said bin Laden struggled to find the answer to this question before he was killed.

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