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America Under Attack: Who Did it

Aired September 13, 2001 - 06:21   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.
VINCE CELLINI, CNN ANCHOR: Why has Osama bin-Laden been at the top of the list of suspects in Tuesday's attack? Our guest now may have some answers. He is Simon Reeve, author of the book, "The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism," and he joins us now from London.

Good morning, Mr. Reeve.

SIMON REEVE, JOURNALIST: Good morning.

CELLINI: You have studied Bin Laden. In your expert opinion is this his signature this attack? Is he -- is he at the forefront of this attack?

REEVE: Well, it's early days still, but I think he is at the top of a very short list of likely perpetrators. If it's not ordered by him, then it's quite likely to have been inspired by him.

CELLINI: As you study him, what can you tell us about him that we don't know? Take us to the core of Osama Bin Laden.

REEVE: Well, I think the crucial period in his life was the 1980s when he fought for 10 years against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He fought in some horrendous battles, and I think that has given him a sense of fearlessness, it's militarized him. It's turned him into a very -- a man who is prepared to use overwhelming force in pursuit of his objectives.

CELLINI: Well, he cannot act alone. Perhaps you can tell us about who might be shoulder to shoulder with him, about his soldiers, his lieutenants and this army that he seemed to -- seems to have assembled?

REEVE: Well, several of his men seem to come from North Africa, particularly from Algeria, they form the core of his group. He also has other followers from the Middle East, from Europe, from America, from across the Muslim and -- from across the Muslim world. They're absolutely devoted to him. They do view him as their leader, but he is one of several leaders of a broad group. It's a loose knit group. It's an umbrella group for various organizations who are battling for widely differing aims from bringing down the government in Egypt to bringing down the government in Algeria to, of course, launching attacks against America because of its support for regimes in the Middle East and for its support for Israel. CELLINI: Yes, Mr. Reeve, I would imagine he becomes that much more dangerous because he has the financial wherewithal to do things on a very broad scope.

REEVE: He does indeed, but it -- I think it's something of a mistake to make him out to be a billionaire or something like that. He certainly did inherit a large sum of money when his father died. His father was a major businessman in the Middle East. His -- the Bin Laden Construction Company, which he founded, helped to rebuild Kuwait after the end of the war there, it rebuilt Beirut after the conflict there. And Osama bin-Laden certainly did inherit a large sum of money. How much of that he still has I think is open to question and I think it's also open to question how easily he can access that money. What is not in doubt, however, is that there is still money funding his group and that money is coming out largely from the Middle East from supporters of Bin Laden's aims.

CELLINI: You call him one of the new breed of terrorists, can you expand on that a little bit? What about this new breed, what makes them even more dangerous?

REEVE: Well, I think in the past, terrorists have tended to have some sort of political goal, however unreasonable it might seem, and I think the fear now is that terrorists are prepared to inflict mass causalities in pursuit of aims that aren't easily to -- easy to define. I mean Bin Laden's aim seems to be to attack America, to drive it out of the Middle East but generally just to assault America in the hope that support -- American support for countries in the Middle East like Saudi Arabia will wither away. But he -- he's never really explained why he's gone after America.

It seems to be some sort of anger at America, but also he feels betrayed by America and he turned against America at the end of the Afghan conflict when America tried to persuade him and other Afghan rebel fighters to start talking to the people they'd previously been fighting. So there's several causes of his anger, not just an anger at Israel, it's anger at Saudi Arabia, it's anger at American support for regimes in the Middle East but it's also he feels betrayed by them. He's a former asset of America that has turned against his former sponsors.

CELLINI: Well, Simon Reeve, thank you very much for your insights. We appreciate your time this morning from London, thank you.

REEVE: My pleasure.

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