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Osama obsessed with US

world Updated: May 12, 2011 23:47 IST
Greg Miller, Karen DeYoung
Highlight Story

Osama bin Laden was preoccupied with attacking the United States over all other targets, a fixation that led to friction with followers, according to US intelligence officials involved in analyzing the trove of materials recovered from the al Qaeda leader’s compound.

In handwritten journals and long-winded compositions saved on computer hard drives, the officials said, bin Laden always seemed to be searching for a way to replicate the impact of al Qaeda’s most devastating strike.

Bin Laden went to bizarre lengths trying to calculate how many more American deaths it would take to force the US to retreat from West Asia, his writings have revealed.

The Qaeda leader was convinced that only a massive blood-letting on the scale of 9/11 would have the necessary shock factor to effect a change in US policy around the region. He told his followers that a sprinkling of smaller attacks would not have desired effect.

The revelation of Bin Laden’s morbid emphasis on another mass atrocity comes from the large stash of his writings that was discovered in his hideout in Pakistan and brought by Navy Seals to the US after they killed him.

He exhorted followers to explore ways to recruit non-Muslims “who are oppressed in the United States,” in the words of one official — particularly African Americans and Latinos — and to assemble a plot in time for the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

“Bin Laden is saying, ‘You’ve got to focus on the US and the West,’ “ said a senior US intelligence official who was involved in reviewing the stockpile, adding that some of bin Laden’s followers seemed more concerned with regional issues and were reluctant to conduct an attack that would provoke an American response.

A little over a week after obtaining one of the largest intelligence hauls on a terrorist group, US officials said they are learning more about bin Laden and the al Qaeda bureaucracy than about the locations of operatives or specific plots that might be unfolding.

Overall, the officials said, the new information — as well as the lack of any apparent effort by bin Laden to prevent it from falling into US hands — provides a strikingly rich portrait of the al Qaeda chief.

“Bin Laden got lazy and complacent,” said the senior US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

Officials said they are still in triage mode as they sift through the contents of more than 110 flash drives, laptops and other digital storage devices, in addition to piles of paper documents.

The early effort has focused on searching the most recent materials for key words, including the names of major American cities. Analysts are also scanning for references to names of al Qaeda figures, phone numbers and other details that could provide clues for CIA operatives and military counterterrorism teams working overseas.

The trove however does not point to any contact between bin Laden and members of the Pakistani military or intelligence services.

(For additional content from The Washington Post, visit www.washingtonpost.com)