In his handwritten will, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden claimed he had about $29 million in personal wealth - the bulk of which he wanted to be used “on jihad, for the sake of Allah.”
The will was released on Tuesday in a batch of more than 100 documents seized in the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The al Qaeda leader planned to divide his fortune among his relatives but wanted most of it spent to conduct the work of the Islamic extremist terror network behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The threat of sudden death was on his mind years before the fatal raid in Pakistan.
“If I am to be killed,” he wrote in a 2008 letter to his father, “pray for me a lot and give continuous charities in my name, as I will be in great need for support to reach the permanent home.”
The documents were released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. They address a range of topics, including fractures between al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq, which eventually splintered off into what is now known as the Islamic State; and bin Laden’s concerns about his organisation’s public image.
In another letter, addressed to “The Islamic Community in General,” bin Laden offered an upbeat assessment of progress in his holy war and of US failings in Afghanistan. The letter is undated but appears to have been written in 2010.
“Here we are in the tenth year of the war, and America and its allies are still chasing a mirage, lost at sea without a beach,” he wrote.
“They thought that the war would be easy and that they would accomplish their objectives in a few days or a few weeks, and they did not prepare for it financially, and there is no popular support that would enable it to carry on a war for a decade or more.”
Bin Laden sought to portray the US as mired in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. In an undated letter that appears to have been written in the 2009-2010 period, he compared the American combat position to that of the Soviet Union in the final years of its occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
“America appears to be hanging on by a thin thread,” he wrote.
“We need to be patient a bit longer. With patience, there is victory!”
Beginning last summer, the CIA led an interagency review of the classified documents under the auspices of the White House’s National Security Council staff. Representatives from seven agencies combed through the documents.
The review is ongoing, with the next release expected later this year.
Shortly before his death, bin Laden hailed the overthrow and death of Libya’s strongman leader Moammar Gaddafi. In a February 25, 2011 letter addressed “to our people in Libya,” bin Laden said al Qaeda had triumphed.
“Praise God, who made al Qaeda a great vexation upon him, squatting on his chest, enraging and embittering him, and who made al-Qaeda a torment and exemplary punishment upon him, this truly vile hallucinating individual who troubles us in front of the world!” he wrote.
The documents also show al Qaeda’s leaders were increasingly worried about spies in their midst, drones in the air and secret tracking devices reporting their movements as the US-led war against them ground on.
In one document, bin Laden issues instructions to al Qaeda members holding an Afghan hostage to be wary of possible tracking technology attached to the ransom payment. “It is important to get rid of the suitcase in which the funds are delivered, due to the possibility of it having a tracking chip in it,” bin Laden states in a letter to an aide identified only as “Shaykh Mahmud”.
In an apparent reference to armed US drones patrolling the skies, bin Laden says his negotiators should not leave their rented house in the Pakistani city of Peshawar “except on a cloudy overcast day.”
While the document is undated, the hostage, Afghan diplomat Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was held from September 2008 to late 2010.
Another, fragmentary document acknowledges that al Qaeda executed four would-be volunteers on suspicion of spying, only to discover they were probably innocent, according to senior US intelligence officials authorised to discuss the materials in advance of their public release.