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CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri

Aired March 20, 2004 - 11:00   ET

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

RENAY SAN MIGUEL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Renay San Miguel at CNN CENTER in Atlanta with the headlines this hour. Taiwan Central Election Commission says President Chen Shui-bian has nearly won reelection. Voter turn out was heavy one day after an assassination attempt on the president. The opposition candidate says that election was unfair and he is calling for a recount.
Now to the U.S. presidential election. No sign that the president's campaign managers have forgotten which state swung the election three and half years ago. Today the president is making his 20th visit to Florida since taking office. He is scheduled to appear at a campaign rally in Orlando about an hour from now.

Who is watching the clock in London -- apparently not the police. A pare of anti-war protesters managed to bypass security and scale Big Ben where they unfurled a banner that read time for truth. Police are investigating how the men got past them.

Pakistani forces continue their fierce battle with suspected al Qaeda fighters. They say that they are cornered in Pakistan's rugged mountain region. Question is, is Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant even there.

For more on that we go now to Ash-Har Quraishi in Islamabad joining us now on video phone -- Ash-Har.

ASH-HAR QURAISHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Renay.

Well, military officials say they are holding their position at this time. They say the fighting is very, very fierce. They continue to pound this area in northwest Pakistan. They are using heavy military fire power including helicopter gunships, as well artillery rounds and small arms fire as well, trying to hold this position. They say they have made some progress. They have been able to clear about 8 of these compounds. And they have captured about 100 suspected al Qaeda suspects as well as tribesman that are helping them.

Now what about this high value target. Now that something we've been hearing about all week. Intelligence officials and military officials say Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's number two is that high value target, although official on the ground cant say either way is he there or not there. But they say they've been intercepting radio communications that indicated the possibility that the high valued target may have been in Uzbek or Chechen militant leader. Of course, the fighting continuing for a fifth day. They say that it won't be clear until they're able to clear this area until the firing stops and they're able go in to make a full assessment as to who or what this high value target was -- Renay.

Ash-Har Quraishi, live from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thank you so much.

I'm Renay San Miguel. Up next "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" more with Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the privileged doctor who became the leader of al Qaeda.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS -- Osama bin Laden's number two man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's his closest adviser. They've known each other since 1987.

ANNOUNCER: A surgeon from Egypt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a genius doctor.

ANNOUNCER: Accused of plotting and planning violence for decades. A man who has declared war on America. Public enemy, number two. Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Then, the world's most wanted man. The mastermind behind the attacks of September 11th.

OSAMA BIN LADEN, Al QAEDA LEADER, (through translator): We declared jihad a holy war against the United States government.

ANNOUNCER: The son of a Saudi multimillionaire air who has used his money and power to form a terrorist network. Personal insights from someone who has met him face-to-face.

PETER BERGEN, REPORTER: He appeared to be somebody very subdued.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Osama bin Laden's journey to jihad. Their stories now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN MANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ayman Al-Zawahiri was usually seen at Osama bin Laden's side, his ally, his confidant. Like bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri was targeted for his role in the September 11th attacks. He was also indicted for the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Ayman Al-Zawahiri is effectively bin Laden's number two.

MANN: Like Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri came from a privileged background. The Al-Zawahiri family lives in a well off suburb of Cairo. One grandfather was a renowned Muslim scholar, the other a diplomat, his father a prominent doctor. There's even an Al- Zawahiri Street. Mahfouz Azzam is Ayman Al-Zawahiri's uncle. He describes his nephew as a quiet boy who read a lot and was a star student. He says Ayman was always calm, relaxed and deeply religious.

MAHFOUZ AZZAM, AL-ZAWAHIRI UNCLE: He was known, he is a good Muslim keen to pray at time in the mosque and to read and to think and to have his own decisions. He can know what is the right and what is the wrong in what he reeds.

MANN: Ayman Al-Zawahiri's political involvement began during the reign of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nassar in the 1960's. Al- Zawahiri was a medical student in his teens when he joined al-Jihad, one of the many groups that opposed the regime and favored an Islamic state. After Nasser's death, Anwar Sadat took power. First Sadat fought Israel. Then in the late '70s, he began to make peace with the Jewish state. At home, agitation against Sadat increased. Like his friend, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Kamal Habib was a Muslim activist. Both advocated violence against the Sadat regime.

KAMAL HABIB, ISLAMIC ACTIVIST (through translator): We thought at the time that the goal to apply the laws of Islam can't be achieved with ways other than violence.

MANN: In October 1981, Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamic extremists. The actual assassins were tried and convicted in a military court. But there was a second trial, Al-Zawahiri, Along with Kamal Habib and 300 other activists was rounded up and tried on conspiracy charges. Because Al-Zawahiri was fluent in English, he became a spokesman when the international media were Al-lowed to interview the group.

AYMAN Al-ZAWAHIRI: We want to speaks 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 believed in their religion, in (INAUDIBLE) ideology and practice.

MANN: The court would eventually find that Al-Zawahiri did not participate in the assassination plot. Nevertheless, Al-Zawahiri harshly condemned Sadat for corruption and for making peace with Israel.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: Such a conspiracy (ph) declared by the stupid agents Anwar Sadat.

MANN: Al-Zawahiri Al-so told reporters that detainees had been tortured.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: Every day they kick us, they beat us. They hooked us to electric cable. They shocked up with electricity. They shocked us with electricity and they use the wild dogs and they use their wild dogs and they hang us over the edges of the doors with our hands tied at the back.

MANN: Kamal Habib confirms that torture was commonplace and it was brutal.

HABIB (through translator): The methods of torture are known to everyone. Honestly, I prefer not to talk about it. But back then, it was on a very large scale.

MANN: Until he got to prison, Al-Zawahiri was by all accounts not a leader in his group, which was known as Al-Jihad.

TRANSLATOR: Ayman Al-Zawahiri had a minor role. There were many who followed the jihad organization belief and didn't contribute in a direct way and Ayman was one of them.

MANN: But journalists Mohammed Salah says the interview with the international media showed that after 14 months in prison Al-Zawahiri was emerging in the top ranks of the militants.

MOHAMMED SALAH, Al-HAYAT NEWSPAPER (through translator): Because of Ayman Al-Zawahiri's charisma, he was able to speak on behalf of his colleagues and express opinions on their behalf.

MANN: General Foud Allam integrated Al-Zawahiri when he was in prison. He says he was struck by the young doctor's demeanor.

GEN. FOUD ALLAM (RET.), EGYPTIAN SECURITY SERVICE (through translator): He was a very normal person. He was very decent, very calm, above all this, shy.

MANN: Others would call this something else, not shyness, but a passion for secrecy that would be one Al-Zawahiri's hallmarks as a leader.

When we return, Ayman Al-Zawahiri takes up the Afghan cause and meets the man who would become America's public enemy number one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MANN: They came from all over the world to Afghanistan, to defend their religion, Islam. After the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in the late '70s, young Muslims came to make a jihad, a holy war against communism. Osama bin Laden answered the call, so did Ayman Al- Zawahiri. He had graduated from medical school in 1974 and was practicing as a surgeon when he made his first trip to Afghanistan in 1979. His uncle says he went there to offer his medical services.

MAHFOUZ AZZAM, Al-ZAWAHIRI UNCLE: He went to Afghanistan to Peshawar, Pakistan. He worked there in the Red Cross hospital.

MANN: Most of his colleagues were still in prison back in Egypt, so Afghanistan was ironically a safe place to be for a man like Al- Zawahiri, says Dia'a Rashwan.

DIA'A RASHWAN, AL AHRAM CENTER: It was a paradise and secure place for these people to run away from their own government and at the same time, you can make your jihad.

MANN: Al-Zawahiri not only tended to the wounded, he also established a base for Egyptians coming to fight and re-established Al-Jihad. But he let someone else run the group, says reporter Mohammed Salah, while remaining behind the scenes. SALAH (through translator): It is said Ayman Al-Zawahiri was away from the spotlight. He didn't like to be in the picture. He didn't talk to the media. He didn't give statements with his name.

MANN: But coming to Afghanistan to make a jihad took its toll on Ayman Al-Zawahiri and the other men, who came to be known as the Afghan Arabs.

HABIB (through translator): I believe those people who went to Afghanistan started thinking differently than those who stayed in prisons. I believe Afghanistan changed them to what I call the demilitarization of Islamic thought.

MANN: The holy war against the Soviets ended in victory, but there was no place for Ayman Al-Zawahiri or many of the Afghan-Arabs to go. At home, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, faced with an increasing amount of terrorism from Islamic groups, was waging a brutal counter offensive. Mahfouz Azzam says because they were skilled fighters, his nephews and others were considered too dangerous by Arab leaders.

AZZAM: If a man practices his religion and it's one of the main five pillars in our Islam is jihad, if a man practices his religion, this government consider him as a criminal.

MANN: Ayman Al-Zawahiri first met Osama bin Laden in Peshawar in 1987, something he talked about more than a decade later.

AL-ZAWAHIRI: We are working (INAUDIBLE) working in Sudan and many other places.

MANN: In 1991, Al-Zawahiri moved with bin Laden from Afghanistan to Sudan, but Al-Zawahiri spent much of the next few years traveling in secret, organizing networks. He went to places like Yemen and in 1995, using an alias, he even visited this California mosque on a fund raising trip. Ayman Al-Zawahiri's group, Al-Jihad, targeted the Egyptian government during the '90s. It was accused of trying to unsuccessfully assassinate the prime minister, and the interior minter. Then, in 1995, it blew up the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.

When "People in the News" returns, Ayman Al-Zawahiri remains in the shadows and declares war on the United States.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MANN: Ayman Al-Zawahiri emerged from the shadows in 1998. He and Osama bin Laden went public with their terrorist alliance in May of that year.

OSMAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): By God's grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world a front called the international Islamic front to do jihad against the crusaders and the Jews.

MANN: They issued a fatwa, a declaration, criticizing the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, the embargo against Iraq and Israel's control of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem. The fatwa said the judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim. To terrorism expert Peter Bergen and others, the fatwa was a sign that bin Laden was taking his lead from Al-Zawahiri.

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

MANN: When a journalist at the press conference asked Al- Zawahiri about reports that the Americans might try to take action against him and bin Laden he said, we are ready.

AL-ZAWAHRI: Being a Muslim you are wanted everywhere because if you -- just if you say no to the super powers, it's a crime you are wanted for.

MANN: And soon, Al-Zawahiri would become a wanted man. A few weeks later in early August, "Al-Hayat" newspaper in Cairo received a fax from Al-Jihad that contained a veiled threat against America. Days later, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked by suicide bombers driving trucks. Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden would both be indicted, charged with masterminding those attacks.

BERGEN: The relationship between Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda is essentially 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.

MANN: Right before the U.S. struck back with cruise missile attacks on al Qaeda training camps, Al-Zawahiri called a Pakistani journalist, denied that bin Laden was behind the attacks but warned of more to come. "Al Hayat's" Mohammed Salah says it's important to understand Ayman Al-Zawahiri's mindset which Salah believes was shaped by the Afghan struggle.

SALAH (through translator): For the most part, he does what he believes in. For example, we consider that the bombing of embassies is a terrorist act against the religion and simply against nature. He considers that this act serves the goals he's after.

MANN: To Ayman Al-Zawahiri's uncle, this is an inconceivable view of his nephew. He remembers him as someone dedicated to saving lives, not taking them.

AZZAM: This is a false accusation. I say to you, he's a genius doctor. that means that what he knows is to practice as a doctor.

MANN: In 1999, Egypt put a number of Al-Jihad members on trial. Ayman Al-Zawahiri and one of his brothers, Mohammed, were tried in absentia and given the death penalty. They remained in Afghanistan, where Mohammed Salah says Ayman Al-Zawahiri's expertise remained crucial to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

SALAH (through translator): Osama bin Laden wasn't an organized man, meaning he didn't have an organization. He hasn't practiced secret operations in his country. He didn't create a network or participate in weapons training or recruiting individuals. This kind of operation experience Ayman Al-Zawahiri had since he was 16.

MANN: Since September 11th, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has raised his public profile, appearing several times in videos obtained by Arabic television station Al-Jazeera. This one was released just as the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began in October 2001.

TRANSLATOR: American people you must ask yourselves, why all this hate against America?

MANN: The U.S. government believes Al-Zawahiri was a key player in the attacks, helping plan and oversee the operation, as well as the attack in 2000 on the "USS Cole." And Al-Zawahiri, like bin Laden, has become even more open about claiming credit for 9/11.

TRANSLATOR: God willing, we will continue targeting the keys of the American economy.

MANN: Before the tape had surfaced, there had been periodic rumors of Al-Zawahiri's death, and of Al-Zawahiri sightings. A funeral notice for his wife and children had been placed in an Egyptian newspaper, saying they had been killed in Afghanistan. This tape, which made reference to Iraq, offered proof that he was still alive, and threatening future attacks against America and its allies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have sent some messages to America's allies to stop their involvement with its crusade. The young Mubarak have sent a message to France and another to Germany. If the dose is not enough, we are ready with God's help to increase it.

MANN: It has been two decades since Ayman Al-Zawahiri said he wanted the whole world to hear his message, a message which was heard loud and clear. When "People in the News" returns, al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden's trail of terror.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MANN: When Osama bin Laden got word of the first attack on the World Trade Center, those in the room with him that day say he prayed and wept, shouted, Allah who acbar (ph), God is great and then signaled his followers that more attacks were on the way.

BIN LADEN: They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building. So I said to them, be patient.

MANN: Later the man once code named the contractor would talk about the event in cold blooded fashion, drawing on his own background in construction and demolition.

BIN LADEN: Due to my experience in the field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hits and all the floors above it only. This is all that we hoped for. MANN: The horror of 9/11 was to Osama bin Laden a triumph of planning and engineering. To him and al Qaeda, a great victory against an enemy, America, that they had been at war with for years. Osama bin Laden had escalated that war, striking America within its own borders, something he had been working towards for years. Osama bin Laden's journey towards jihad and global terrorism began in Saudi Arabia in 1957. He was the 17th of more than 50 children, of a self-made billionaire. His father was from Yemen. But by the time Osama was born, he was head of what would be the largest construction firm in Saudi Arabia, a friend of the royal family, Mohammed bin Laden would die in a plane crash when Osama was 10.

BERGEN: As a teenager, bind Laden was religiously quite devout according to both family members and also people who knew him. He also became interested in the family business, started working in the family business, you know in his late teens, and then eventually started public administration at university.

MANN: It was in his late teens that Osama bin Laden married the first of his four wives, a Syrian born cousin. Then in 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden, like many young Muslim men of his generation, found his calling, joining the mujahedeen, the holy warriors, who were helping the Afghans fight against the communists. Influenced in part by one of his professors, Sheikh Abdullah Azam (ph), who had become his mentor during the Afghan struggle. Bin Laden first helped with money, using it to set up a series of guest houses for the Mujahideen coming to Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan from around the Arab world. He Also obtained construction equipment from Saudi Arabia, and used skills he had learned working in the family business.

BERGEN: He applied the lessons he learned from the demolition side of the business to building crude shelters in the mountains of Afghanistan.

MANN: But then, bin Laden took up arms. By the late '80s he was a hero and a leader to the men known as the Afghan Arabs, who had made their way to Afghanistan to be part of the struggle. Then, as the war was winding down, bin Laden and his mentor, Sheik Abdullah Azzam, founded a group called al Qaeda, the base.

ROHAN GUNARAINA, AUTHOR, "INSIDE AL QAEDA": According to the founding charter of al Qaeda, published in March 1988, when al Qaeda was founded, it states that al Qaeda is the pioneering vanguard of the Islamic movements. It is the spearhead of Islam.

MANN: And this so-called pioneering vanguard, which wanted to continue holy war around the world, began to view another country as the enemy, a country which ironically, had spent billions funding the Afghan resistance to the Soviets through the CIA.

When "People in the News" returns, a personal encounter with the world's most wanted man.

BERGEN: He appeared to be somebody who was very subdued, didn't raise his voice above a whisper. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MANN: August 1990, Saddam Hussein sends Iraqi forces into Kuwait. Within days, Iraqi troops are poised on Saudi Arabia's border. They're in striking distance of Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina. By this time, Osama bin Laden has returned to Saudi Arabia and he makes a proposal to a member of the Saudi royal family. Hisman (ph), the battle hardened Mujahideen who had fought in Afghanistan, will help protect Mecca and Medina from Saddam Hussein, a man he despised as a bad Muslim. But instead, the Saudi government agreed to let American troops into the country, rejecting bin Laden's proposal.

DR. SAAD AL FAGIH, SAUDI DISSIDENT: He was actually harassed after giving this advice and he was put in sort of house arrest, asked not to leave at all. So he thought since then that there is American/Saudi conspiracy to control the land of Arabia and that made a surge in his opinion against the U.S.

MANN: Even after the end of the Gulf war, American troops stayed in Saudi Arabia and they were the ones in effect now guarding the Muslim holy sites, not Osama bin Laden, and to him that was unthinkable. Bin Laden was forced to leave Saudi Arabia in 1991. He moved to Sudan, which had a fundamentalist Islamic government. It's not clear how much money bin Laden had at his disposal from his share of the family business. Estimates range from $1 million to more than $250 million. But he had enough money to be an honored guest of the Sudanese government.

BERGEN: During that period bin Laden was probably the largest businessman in Sudan. He had literally thousands of people working for him on his farms. He had banks. He had leather tanneries. He had a very wide reason range of businesses including construction, which, of course, is the family business.

MANN: Bin Laden was also busy building up al Qaeda as a terrorist organization. He set up training camps and began to build up al Qaeda cells and alliances in the middle east and east Africa. During a 1997 interview, bin Laden would reveal how in 1993, al Qaeda helped Somali militia's shoot down two U.S. army Blackhawk helicopters, killing 18 people.

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

MANN: Bin Laden would also be linked to attacks on those U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia that he so strongly opposed. The attacks in Riyadh in 1995, and Dahran (ph) a year later would kill 24 Americans. At the time, bin Laden denied involvement, but praised the attackers.

BIN LADEN (through translator): It's no secret that during the two explosions I was not in Saudi Arabia, but I have great respect for the people who did this. They are heroes. What they did is a big honor that I missed participating in. MANN: Bin Laden was also named in 1995 as an unindicted co- conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Ramsey Yousef, the man convicted as the mastermind of that attack, had stayed in a bin Laden guest house after he fled America. Again, in his 1997 interview with CNN, bin Laden would deny a role.

BIN LADEN (through translator): I don't know Ramsey Yousef. What the American government and Pakistani intelligence has been reporting isn't true at all.

MANN: By 196, bin Laden was wearing out his welcome in Sudan. The U.S. was pressuring the Sudanese government to kick him out, and bin Laden returned to Afghanistan. That's where the CNN interview took place. Peter Bergen was the producer. Bergen and the CNN crew spent more than an hour with bin Laden.

BERGEN: We didn't know what to expect because this was his first television interview. But he appeared to be somebody who was very subdued. He didn't raise his voice above a whisper. He's very tall, 6'5". So my main impression of him was despite the fact he was attacking the United States very strongly in this interview, was that he delivered the whole tirade in a very low-key, subdued kind of way.

MANN: And bin Laden made it clear that he was at war with America, calling for a jihad, a holy war. He said America was unjust and tyrannical. In 1997, he claimed this jihad was limited to military targets.

BIN LADEN (through translator): We have focused declaration of jihad on striking at the U.S. soldiers inside Arabia, the country of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina. In our religion it is not permissible for any non-Muslims to stay in Arabia. Therefore, even though the American civilians are not targeted in our plan, they must leave. We do not guarantee their safety.

MANN: A year later in 1998, bin Laden would leave no doubt that he was at war with America. He invited journalists to hear him issue a fatwa, a proclamation, calling on Muslims to kill Americans everywhere and announced what was essentially a coalition of Islamic terrorist groups. Bin Laden made it clear he wanted the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia, an end to Israel and an end to the U.N. boycott against Iraq.

BIN LADEN (through translator): By God's grace, thanks to him we declared as many scholars did, that it is mandatory that we struggle and do jihad to get the Americans out of the Arabian peninsula and jihad is mentioned here, it is to mean carrying the weapon and to kill those Americans.

MANN: Bin Laden was flanked by his military commander, Mohammad Atta and the man who was the leader of Egypt's Al-Jihad group, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. al Qaeda and Al-Jihad had been working together already for years. At that 1998 meeting with journalists, Osama bin Laden was asked how he and al Qaeda hoped to take on the United States. Bin Laden reminded journalists that his men had already helped defeat one super power, the Soviet Union, forcing it out of Afghanistan. Now they were ready to declare war on America. BIN LADEN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR: If it is clear to you what our strength is, the Americans and Jews know what our strength is and they will withdraw from the Arabian peninsula.

MANN: Bin Laden hinted that there would be more news in the near future.

Coming up -- the terrifying realization of exactly what that news was. think again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MANN: Less than 11 weeks after Osama bin Laden issued his declaration of war against America, al Qaeda made good on its threat, launching simultaneous suicide bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tananzia. The date was August 7th, 1998, eight years to the day that the first U.S. troops were sent to Saudi Arabia. A few weeks later, the U.S. would retaliate, launching cruise missiles at what it said were al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States launched an attack this morning on one of the most active terrorist bases in the world. It is located in Afghanistan and operated by groups affiliated with Osama bin Laden.

MANN: But the retaliation was a disaster, neither bin Laden nor his deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, were anywhere near the camps, but they turned up later to thumb their noses at the U.S. and across the Muslim world, Osama bin Laden became something of a cult hero. But to the American government, he was the most wanted man in the world, and bin Laden wasn't through. A series of attacks against America around the time of the millennium was averted, but in October 2000, al Qaeda struck again. A boat packed with explosives rammed the "USS Cole" while it was arriving at harbor in Yemen. Seventeen American sailors died. Early the next year, in January 2001, bin Laden appeared in a video showing the wedding of his son to the daughter of his military commander, Mohammed Atta.

There was more video a few months later, in this bin Laden seemed to hint of an attack, but he didn't say where. The plan, it turned out, had been in the offing for more than a year, simultaneous attacks on New York and Washington, a cadre of young men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, recruited for the suicide mission. Those young men said in deeds (ph) in New York and Washington, speeches that overshadowed all other speeches made everywhere else in the world.

GUNARAINA: Osama bin Laden's main reason to strike the United States was because Osama wanted to declare Islamic states in the Arabian peninsula and North Africa and the United States was protecting, was shielding, those countries. The United States is the head of the snake, was preventing those states from becoming Islamic.

MANN: But this time, says Rowhan Gunaraina, Osama bin Laden may have overreached himself. In the past he says, bin Laden had been openly contemptuous of the U.S. and perhaps never believed it would mobilize and help rout the Taliban government that was providing his safe haven in Afghanistan. This statement was released to al-Jazeera the same day American planes began bombing Afghanistan.

TRANSLATOR: There is America, hit by God in one of its softest spots, its greatest buildings were destroyed. Thank God for that. There is America full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to I its east. Thank god for that.

MANN: The northern alliance victory over the Taliban turned bin Laden into a man on the run. There were occasional video appearances, though the dates were unclear. His last known whereabouts were at the siege of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan during late November and early December of 2001. According to one account from a member of al Qaeda, U.S. bombs falling on Tora Bora missed bin Laden by little more than 200 yards. And intelligence sources told CNN that bin Laden was injured at Tora Bora and later had an operation, that he disappeared over the border into Pakistan. There were rumors, sightings, intelligence reports. There were even letters said to be from him posted on the Internet warning of future attacks. Then, right before the anniversary of 9/11, this audiotape praising each of the hijackers by name. A month later on the anniversary of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, another audiotape, calling on Americans to convert to Islam. Experts could not put a date on either tape. But finally in November of 2002 proof that bin Laden was still alive. A tape praising a string of recent attacks, some of them claimed by al Qaeda.

BIN LADEN (through translator): The killing of the British and Australians in the Bali explosions, the recent Moscow operation and some dispersed operations here and there are all reactions and treatment in kind dealt by the zealous sons of Islam in defense of their religion.

MANN: Then, on the eve of the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, another videotape showing Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman Al-Zawahiri. The video tape was accompanied by an audiotape reportedly of bin Laden once again praising the hijackers.

BIN LADEN (through translator): Those who don't agree with killing, then let them step out of the way.

MANN: Also in these latest messages, another familiar theme, repeated warnings that more attacks from al Qaeda should be expected.

BIN LADEN (through translator): Just as you kill, you will get killed. Just as you shell, you will get shelled. Await then what will dismay you.

MANN: Providing an eerie echo of a statement he made in 1997 to CNN when he was asked then about his plans for the future.

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

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