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The World's Most Wanted

Aired October 28, 2001 - 22:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are beating the passengers. They are threatening to kill them now.


ANNOUNCER: From hijackings and bombings to mass murder and holy wars, they are the accused: THE WORLD'S MOST WANTED.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man is ruthless and, you know he believes that he should declare a war against United States.


ANNOUNCER: Bin Laden tops the list, but this man isn't far behind.


PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Ayman Al-Zawahiri's influence on bin Laden has been profound.


ANNOUNCER: And this man's eluded authorities for nearly two decades -- the so-called unknown terrorist.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imad Mugniyah was the master terrorist who was truly faceless, who was truly dangerous.



On the wall behind me here at FBI headquarters are the 21 suspected terrorists the FBI calls THE WORLD'S MOST WANTED. A $5 million reward on the head of each. But who are these most wanted men? The suspect at the very top of the list, of course, needs no introduction. His name is synonymous with terror: Osama bin Laden. At the moment the most sought after man on the planet on the run in a nation under attack.

He's CNN's Mike Boettcher.


MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An alliance of nations, a force of ships, planes and troops all searching for one man: Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history.

To thousands of followers worldwide he is revered as a hero. To millions more he is the very picture of evil. And for law enforcement officials worldwide he is the focus of a massive investigation, named by the U.S. as the prime suspect in the terror attacks of September 11.

The 44-year-old bin Laden has denied any involvement. But in a videotape that aired just hours after the U.S. first launched strikes on Afghanistan, bin laden praised the hijackers who carried out the attacks.

The video was given to the Qatari-based television network Al Jazeera. In the tape bin Laden also vowed that America will not live in peace until -- in his words -- "peace reigns in Palestine" and what he called the "infidel armies" leave the Islamic world.

In Western intelligence circles bin Laden has been well known for years for this document: a call for jihad, or holy war. Bin Laden discussed that call to arms in his first ever television interview with CNN in 1997.

OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): We declared a jihad, a holy war, against the United States government because it is unjust, criminal and tyrannical.

ABDEL BARI ATWAN, EDITOR, "AL-QUDS AL-ARABI" NEWSPAPER: You know, the man is ruthless and, you know, he believes that he should declare war against the United States. And this kind of appeal -- this kind of call actually appeals to many young Muslims all over the world.

BOETTCHER: But Osama bin Laden doesn't come from a family of extremists. He was born the son of a billionaire Saudi businessman, the 17th of 52 children, some of whom live in the United States. His father built the largest construction business in Saudi Arabia.

Osama joined the family operation at a young age, developing an expertise in demolition.

But in 1979 the religious 23-year-old left his comfortable life and took a radical turn. That year the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and bin Laden joined the Afghan opposition, offering money, equipment and know how.

By 1986 bin Laden was running training camps and leading his own troops into battle. When the war ended bin Laden founded al Qaeda -- a multi-national terrorist network. Its members use the most up to date technology -- satellite phone, e-mail, fax -- to coordinate their activities from all over the world. It drew thousands of volunteers.

DR. SAAD AL FAGIH, SAUDI OPPOSITION: They are either directors, taking command, direct command and orders from bin Laden or there are small cells and groups who believe bin Laden is a good father. His message is almost like a religious order.

BOETTCHER: When the Gulf War broke out in 1990, an outraged bin Laden began to target a new enemy: America. He declared a holy war against his new enemy, and a set of demands that hold to this day.

Bin Laden wants U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia; he opposes U.S. bombing campaigns in Iraq; he is against U.S. support of Israel; and he objects to U.S. backing of Arab nations he deems un-Islamic, such as Egypt.

BIN LADEN (through translator): The U.S. government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal through its support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. And we believe the U.S. is directly responsible for those killed in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq.

BOETTCHER: In the next decade Osama bin laden and his al Qaeda organization would be implicated in a series of attacks on Americans at home and abroad.

In 1993 the first American victims: 18 servicemen killed in Somalia, a Muslim nation embroiled in famine and civil war.

Bin laden admitted his involvement to CNN.

BIN LADEN (through translator): With Allah's grace, Muslims in Somalia cooperated with some Arab holy warriors who were in Afghanistan. Together they killed large numbers of American occupation troops.

BOETTCHER: 1993: a bomb at the World Trade Center; six people killed and thousands injured. Bin Laden denies any involvement but he was named one of many un-indicted co-conspirators.

1995, 1996: bin Laden possibly linked to two bombings in Saudi Arabia; 24 U.S. troops dead.

1998: Bombs at two U.S. embassies in Africa kill 224 people. Bin Laden has been indicted as the mastermind behind the attack.

2000: The bombing of the USS Cole kills 17 U.S. sailors. Osama bin Laden is the principal focus of the investigation.

2001: Bin Laden is now suspect number one in the worst terrorist act in modern history. In 1997 bin Laden tried to explain the logic behind his tactics.

BIN LADEN (through translator): The U.S. today has set a double standard, calling whoever goes against its injustice a terrorist. It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us to rule us, and then wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.

BOETTCHER: And he made clear he had no intention of changing his ways, or his future plans.

BIN LADEN (through translator): You'll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.


VAN SUSTEREN: If Osama bin Laden is public enemy number, one Ayman Al-Zawahiri is number two. Coming up: bin Laden's right hand man.


VAN SUSTEREN: They met during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden, the young idealistic warrior, Ayman Al- Zawahiri, the older, more radical doctor. Student, teacher, and finally, partners.

Bin Laden may be the face of al Qaeda, but Al-Zawahiri is thought by many experts to be the brains. With a look at the man allegedly behind, and definitely beside, bin Laden, here again is CNN's Mike Boettcher.


BOETTCHER (voice-over): If Osama bin Laden is now America's public enemy number one, Ayman al-Zawahiri may now be public enemy number two.

BERGEN: Ayman al-Zawahiri is effectively bin Laden's number two. He's his closest adviser, has worked with bin Laden for a long time. They've known each other since 1987.

BOETTCHER: Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man who has bin Laden's ear, is already wanted by the United States like bin Laden for his alleged role in the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Al- Zawahiri is also wanted in his native Egypt.

Even before he met bin Laden in Pakistan in 1987, Al-Zawahiri led what the U.S. and Egypt said was a terrorist group. Now a 50-year old surgeon, al-Zawahiri was a medical student from a well to do family in Cairo, when he was first arrested and charged with being part of a Muslim brotherhood plot to overthrow then President Nasser.

When Anwar Sadat took over as Egypt's president, al-Zawahiri worked to overthrow him and establish an Islamic state says Dia'a Rashwan. DIA'A RASHWAN: Zawahiri, from the beginning was the idol of internal jihad against the Egyptian regime which considered by him as non-Muslim.

BOETTCHER: After Sadat moved from war with Israel to peace, members of Zawahiri's group Islamic Jihad assassinated the Egyptian president. In the wake of that assassination, Zawahiri was put on trial in 1981 as defendant number 113, accused of being part of the broader conspiracy against the Egyptian state. This videotape of Zawahiri and some of his co-defendant was recorded during that trial.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHIRI: This is our world by Dr. Al-Zawahiri.

BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri emerged as the group spokesman and he outlined its goals.

ZAWAHIRI: We want to speak to the whole world. Who are we? Who are we? Why did they bring us here? And what we want to say? About the first question, we are Muslims. We are Muslims, who believe in their religion, in ideology and practice. We believed in our religion, both as an ideology and practice. And hence, we tried our best to establish this Islamic state and Islamic society.

BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri would not condemn Sadat's assassination, instead attacked him for signing the Camp David peace accords. He also claims Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, was trying to kill off Islamic Jihad and other groups.

ZAWAHIRI: Secondly, the conspiracy of evacuating this area in preparation for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) infiltration, which was declared by the stupid arrogant Anwar Sadat.

BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri complained that he and many others were being tortured while in jail.

ZAWAHIRI: They beat us. They worked us with electric cables. They shocked us with electricity. They shocked us with electricity. And they used wild dogs and they used their wild dogs. And they hanged us over the edge of the door with our hands tied at the back. They arrested the wives, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters, and the sons in a trial to put a psychological pressure over these innocent prisoners.

BOETTCHER: Al-Zawahiri was convicted for his role in the conspiracy and served three years in prison, but his uncle, who defended him in that trial, says al-Zawahiri was a man of peace.

MAFHOUZ AZZAM, AL-ZAWAHIRI's UNCLE: He refused any action against any person. And this is in his feature and his character. And he's from the time he's a child.

BOETTCHER: He surfaced in 1987 in Peshawar, Pakistan, doctoring to those wounded in the fight against Afghanistan's Soviet-backed regime. That's where he first met Osama bin Laden, who was leading a group of Muslims from around the world in the fight against the Soviets. Little is known about al-Zawahiri's activities for the next few years, but it is know he visited the United States twice in the early 1990s, according to court testimony from this man, Ali Mohammed, another Egyptian close to bin Laden.

And under al-Zawahiri's leadership, Islamic Jihad continued a violent campaign against the Egyptian government, blowing up its embassy in Pakistan in 1995 and trying to assassinate several leading Egyptian politicians.

Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden grew closer, combining bin Laden's experience in the Afghan war with al-Zawahiri's vision of an apocalyptic conflict between Islam and the West.

RASHWAN: I think al-Zawahiri was very affected by bin Laden's idea about struggle against the international enemies of Muslim.

BOETTCHER: And early in 1998, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri appeared together in Afghanistan to announce a fatwa, a decree calling for a jihad against Jews and Crusaders. It called on Muslims to kill the Americans and their allies, civilians and military.

BERGEN: Ayman Al-Zawahiri's influence on bin Laden has been profound, according to a number of people who knew both Zawahiri and bin Laden. He's influenced his thinking to become more radical, more anti-American and also more violent.

BOETTCHER: At the beginning of August that year, a fax from al- Zawahiri's group was sent to an Egyptian newspaper, warning that Islamic Jihad was seeking revenge against America for the arrest of several of its members. Days later, suicide bombers attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden would be indicted by the U.S. for ordering the attack.

Peter Bergen believes al-Zawahiri was a guiding force in the attack, which involved a number of Egyptians.

BERGEN: The relationship between Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda is essentially that they're the same organization. They've cooperated for many, many years. The U.S. government says they effectively merged in '98, but really they merged long before that.

BOETTCHER: Days after the embassy bombings, al-Zawahiri considered media savvy, phoned a Pakistani journalist. Saying he was speaking on bin Laden's behalf, al-Zawahiri denied responsibility for the attack, but urged Muslims all over the world to continue their jihad against the Americans and Jews.

An hour later, the U.S. launched cruise missiles in retaliation. Both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri escaped injury.

Within weeks, there was another alleged plot by al-Zawahiri's group, this time, to bomb the U.S. embassy in Albania. But the attack was prevented. And more than 100 members of Islamic Jihad were rounded up and put on trial by the Egyptian government. Al-Zawahiri was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia. Now, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, al-Zawahiri has become far more visible, and not just as a face on a wanted poster. He's at bin Laden's side in two recently released tapes and his virulent rhetoric, like bin Laden's, is aimed sharply at the U.S.

ZAWAHIRI: America has committed so many crimes against the nation of Muslims that are unbearable. America is the head of the criminals by creating Israel.

We want to speak to the whole world.

BOETTCHER: 20 years after he said he wanted to speak to the world, Ayman al-Zawahiri may have achieved his goal.


VAN SUSTEREN: Before Al-Zawahiri and bin Laden topped the list of THE WORLD'S MOST WANTED, he was considered the most lethal anti- American terrorist of them all.

When we come back, Imad Mugniyah, the alleged shadow of terror.


VAN SUSTEREN: He shares with Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al- Zawahiri the dubious distinction of being one of terror's top 22. But Imad Mugniyah does not share their flare for the cameras.

Mugniyah is a shadowy figure, nearly faceless; and he has confounded authorities for nearly two decades. Until bin Laden, Mugniyah was thought to have killed more Americans than any other terrorist.

With more on Mugniyah, once again here's CNN's Mike Boettcher.


BOETTCHER (voice-over): Beirut, October 23, 1983, America's wake-up call to suicide terror on a massive scale. This was ground zero on that day. The U.S. Marine barracks, Beirut; 241 American servicemen are killed on a suicide attacker drive a truck bomb through the barracks' entrance. Just six months earlier, 63 had died, 17 of them Americans, when another truck bomb ripped apart the U.S. embassy in Beirut. Among the dead, some of the CIA's top Middle East operatives. The result, the first U.S. offensive against terrorism is launched.

But within a year, the U.S. Marines who had been participating in a multinational peacekeeping mission to end the fighting in Lebanon's civil war are withdrawn, and the mastermind of those attacks is never apprehended.

Now, CNN has learned that as part of the any war on terrorism, U.S. officials are again targeting the alleged mastermind of the Beirut bombings. His name, Imad Mugniyah, a founder of the Lebanese Islamic militia Hezbollah, which U.S. officials labels as a terrorist group. This is as close as we can come to showing you Mugniyah's face. U.S. Investigators say he is one of these men, the hijackers of TWA flight 847 in 1985.

His face has remained hidden for almost 20 years, and he is believed to have had at least two plastic surgeries since the TWA operation. He is the unknown terrorist, but incredibly, before September 11, Mugniyah was considered by the United States to be responsible for killing more Americans than any one else in the world.

MAGNUS RANSTROP, UNIV. OF ST. ANDREW'S: Imad Mugniyah is very much the opposite of bin Laden. He has the skill. He is much more professional. He operates as really a faceless terrorist, because we don't know what he looks like. We don't really know where he is.

BOETTCHER: Magnus Ranstrop, a professor at Scotland's St. Andrew's University Center for the Study of Terrorism, is one of the world's leading experts on Lebanon's Hezbollah.

RANSTROP: Imad Mugniyah is the one who has been pinpointed, who was the most hunted man by U.S. intelligence, ever since the 1983 Marine barracks bombing. He has been pinpointed as someone who was instrumental in conducting Hezbollah's foreign operations.

BOETTCHER: This summer, we went to Lebanon, Mugniyah's birthplace, in search of information about the man considered to be a master terrorist. What we found were a lot of people afraid to talk about him.

(on camera): In Beirut, start asking questions by Imad Mugniyah and you get a consistent reaction, the raised eyebrow, that look that says, are you crazy? After all, he is one of the world's most hunted men. And as local legend had it, one person asking too many questions about him was shot and killed right here on Beirut's famous Corniche (ph).

Investigators don't know where he is, possibly Iran or Lebanon's Becca Valley. And Western intelligence operatives don't know what he looks like. They only know him by his fingerprints. And some intelligence sources see those fingerprints on the September 11 attacks. They point to his experience in hijacking, as demonstrated in 1985 when that TWA flight was hijacked to Beirut during flight from Athens to Rome. And they're trying to find out if his experience was tapped by Al Qaeda.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are beating the passengers. They are beating the passengers. They are threatening to kill them now.


BOETTCHER: Pilot John Hesray (ph) pleads for the authorities to comply with the hijackers request for fuel during the 1985 hijack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want the fuel now, immediately, five minutes, five minutes for fuel, now, five minutes, or he is going to kill passengers. He will open the door and kill the passengers and throw them on to the ramp, immediately.


BOETTCHER: The hijackers, Imad Mugniyah believed to be among them, carry out their threat, and dump the body of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stevens (ph) on to the tarmac. He had been beaten and shot to death. Mugniyah is named in a sealed indictment for that crime and is a suspect in many others -- kidnapping western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s, the 1985 abduction, torture and murder of William Buckley, the CIA's station chief, the 1988 abduction and subjected murder of Lieutenant Colonel William Higgins, a U.S. Marine was serving with U.N. forces in Lebanon, bombings of the Israeli embassy in a Jewish community center in Buenos Ares in the early 1990s, more than 100 dead. And a host of other terrorist actions in the past 20 years.

But the specter of Mugniyah and dangerous new alliance was raised by this man, Ali Mohamed (ph), a former U.S. special forces sergeant who admitted involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya.

In court documents, he said that he set up security for a meeting between Mugniyah and Osama bin Laden in 1994. I arranged security for a meeting in Sudan between Mugniyah, Hezbollahs' chief, and bin Laden, swore Ali Mohamed. Hezbollah provide explosives training for Al Qaeda and al-jihad.

RANSTROP: There has been a massive intelligence effort to try to locate Mugniyah for almost over 20 years. And until bin Laden popped up on our radar screens, Imad Mugniyah was the master terrorist, who was truly faceless, who was truly dangerous, and if there was an alliance between Imad Mugniyah and the Al Qaeda, that would be the worst possible scenario.

BOETTCHER: Did that scenario play out on September 11? It is a still unanswered question before investigators.


VAN SUSTEREN: Imad Mugniyah, Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Osama bin laden: all of them suspected terrorist masterminds, all of them part of THE WORLD'S MOST WANTED, and all of them still on the loose.

If you or someone you know has any information relating to these three men or the 19 other suspected terrorists wanted by the FBI, you can contact the bureau via the Internet at You can also call the FBI tip line concerning the September 11 attacks. That number is 1-866-483-5137.

From FBI headquarters in Washington, I'm Greta Van Susteren. Thanks for joining us.




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