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America Under Attack: Studying The Mind of a Terrorist

Aired September 13, 2001 - 05:21   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us right now from London is an expert in terrorism. Dr. Magnus Ranstorp is an internationally recognized scholar in the study of terrorism, and he joins us now.

Good morning.

MAGNUS RANSTORP, ST. ANDREW'S UNIVERSITY: Good morning.

LIN: Well, what you know of the details right now of the FBI investigation, as they say as many as 50 people may have been involved in organizing and executing this terrorist plot.

What do you make of those numbers? Does that sound realistic to you?

RANSTORP: No, I think in terms of the scale and scope of this catastrophic, mass casualty terrorism event, that number seems to suggest that there are many nationalities involved, and that there were many handlers and teams involved. And I think that very quickly, the FBI and the authorities and the intelligence agencies will be able to quickly identify who have been part of these terrible terrorist events.

LIN: Well, the main suspect being discussed right now in the United States is Osama bin Laden. Do you believe that he is responsible for this terrorist attack?

RANSTORP: Well, he has the motivation, and he has the capability. If there are several nationalities involved in this attack, it is almost beyond certainty that he has had some responsibility into having at least planned and authorized the attack. And I think that most of the spotlights will be focusing on, very quickly, on dealing with the problem of Osama bin Linden and Al- Quaida.

LIN: And in terms of dealing with the problem, some of the options the administration is looking at right now, for example, small-scale covert actions targeting bin Laden or all the way to a broad campaign of bombing.

In terms of strategy, what makes sense to go after a man who has been successfully hiding from the United States?

RANSTORP: Well, the difficulty is the fact that there is zones of sanctuary for terrorists. Afghanistan is one of the last zones of sanctuary. It is shrinking very fast. And there is very little intelligence information as to the exact whereabouts of where Osama bin Laden is at the present.

It would require not only possibly military strikes, but more likely or perhaps special operations on the ground in Afghanistan.

LIN: And that would mean, then -- if this were the case that would mean that Pakistan's support would be absolutely critical for the United States -- Pakistan sharing quite a large, broad border with Afghanistan.

RANSTORP: Pakistan is going to be absolutely critical, not only in terms of stationing these types of operations, but also providing intelligence, because it is also one of the only countries that have officially recognized the Taliban regime who are right now hosting one of the most-wanted men in the world.

LIN: And there, Dr. Ranstorp, you point out the problem: Pakistan is one of three governments which actually recognizes the Taliban as an official government entity.

So what sort of position does this put them in? And how likely is it that Pakistan is going to cooperate with the United States?

RANSTORP: It puts Pakistan in a tremendously difficult position, but it's very encouraging that the Pakistani inter-intelligence services is likely -- very likely to provide the information that will pinpoint at least where bin Laden may be.

But, of course, we have geopolitical considerations. It is a very difficult region with a nuclear standoff between Pakistan and India -- Afghanistan, of course, the troublesome southern republic of the former Soviet Union bordering Afghanistan.

But the zones of sanctuary where bin Laden can be hiding is certainly shrinking, and I think the days are numbered for those who have been responsible for this act.

LIN: But what you're suggesting also intact, is you're suggesting that not only does the United States have to plan on some sort of air campaign, but you're saying that the United States or perhaps NATO forces have to actually put people on the ground in Afghanistan and go after Osama bin Laden in that manner?

RANSTORP: Well, Osama bin Laden is symbolic of a wider problem, where you have free-roaming Islamic revolutionaries who have roamed after the end of the war and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. And many of these fighters have shown up in Bosnia, Kashmir, as well as in Chechnya. And there is a whole hierarchy of individuals.

So it's not just taking out Osama bin Laden, but also part of his organizational infrastructure.

LIN: How big is this organization, Dr. Ranstorp?

RANSTORP: Not only

(CROSSTALK)

LIN: How big is this organization? How many people are we talking about?

RANSTORP: Well, at the top, we are talking about a hierarchical organization. Principally the top leadership consists of Egyptians, as well as Afghans and Osama bin Laden himself. We're talking thereabout 25, 30 people in top positions. But, of course, we're talking about thousands of other nationalities who Osama bin Laden have been influencing, financing and trying to utilize for various operations against...

LIN: But, Doctor...

RANSTORP: ... particularly American targets around the world.

LIN: ... Dr. Ranstorp, then, are you describing an impossible target? You're talking about people of different...

RANSTORP: I'm describing...

LIN: ... nationalities in different countries -- thousands of people scattered around the world.

RANSTORP: Yes, but in terms of the coordination, the orchestration, the planning, the finances, it's imperative not only to go after bin Laden, but also his top lieutenants. Then, of course, you have to deal with a number of different free-roaming individuals, who are all scattered. It's going to take -- it's going to be a protected campaign. It's going to take a long time. There's not going to be any quick solutions in terms of just military strikes.

But I think that the United States, with the rest of the free and democratic world, will expend every single possible effort to at least resolve and to eliminate part of this problem.

LIN: So be as specific as you can, Dr. Ranstorp. How do you see -- if there is retaliation for these strikes in the United States, how do you see that retaliation unfolding and over what amount of time?

RANSTORP: I think that there is, of course, pressure on the United States to do something. But I think it has been acting very prudently, trying to trace back the chain of events, trying to get as much evidence as possible before the situation becomes very volatile when the United States may strike back.

And, of course, it has to have and gather the necessary intelligence. And there, I think, the Pakistanis will offer invaluable information of the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much, Dr. Magnus Ranstorp for joining us this morning.

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