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Context of 'Shortly Before May 26, 1998: US Fails to Exploit Advance Notice of Bin Laden’s Only Press Conference'

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Mushaf Ali Mir.Mushaf Ali Mir. [Source: Paknews.com]According to controversial author Gerald Posner, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida meet with senior members of Pakistan’s military, including Mushaf Ali Mir, who becomes chief of Pakistan’s air force in 2000. Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan the month before, and the Pakistanis offer him protection if he allies with the Taliban. The alliance will prove successful, and bin Laden will call it “blessed by the Saudis,” who are already giving money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Posner, 2003, pp. 105-06; Time, 8/31/2003] Perhaps not coincidentally, this meeting comes only one month after a deal was reportedly made that reaffirmed Saudi support for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is initially based in Jalalabad, which is free of Taliban control, but after the deal, he moves his base to Kandahar, which is the center of Taliban power. [Asia Times, 9/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Mushaf Ali Mir, Abu Zubaida

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11.Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11. [Source: Corbis]In early May 1998, Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir interviews bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During the interview, bin Laden tells Mir that he will be holding a press conference soon and invites Mir to attend. Mir will later recall that bin Laden showed him a list of journalists invited. More than 22 names are on the list, including CNN reporters Peter Bergen and Peter Arnett, and an unnamed reporter from the BBC. Mir says he will not attend, explaining that he is worried the press conference will be bombed. “I think that you are inviting a lot of Pakistani journalists. No doubt I have contacts with the intelligence guys, but I am not their informer. They will go back; they will help the intelligence agencies to bomb your compound.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 200-202] The press conference will take place later in the month and while al-Qaeda’s three top leaders bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Mohammed Atef attend, only three journalists show up (see May 26, 1998). Presumably the press conference presents a rare opportunity to take out al-Qaeda’s top leadership in one fell swoop, perhaps as they are coming or going to it, but there is no known debate by US officials or officials in other countries about ways to take advantage of this gathering. The 9/11 Commission’s final report will not mention the press conference at all.

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Hamid Mir, Peter Bergen, Peter Arnett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Journalist Hamid Mir talks to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is living in exile in Iran at the time. Hekmatyar predicts that the Taliban will fall by the end of the year. Mir will later recall, “he was telling me that the Americans will attack Afghanistan, Taliban government will fall, and then we’ll continue our jihad against the Americans.” Hekmatyar is opposed to the Taliban but openly supports bin Laden. He tells Mir, “Osama bin Laden is a great man and I support his ideology and I support his objectives.… He is a good friend of mine and he is a real muhjahid.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 287] A senior Taliban official will make a similar prediction to Mir before 9/11 and hint the justification for the US attack would be a major attack against US interests (see August 2-3, 2001).

Entity Tags: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hamid Mir, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A video still of bin Laden filmed during his interview with Hamid Mir in November 2001.A video still of bin Laden filmed during his interview with Hamid Mir in November 2001. [Source: National Geographic]Pakistani reporter Hamid Mir is taken blindfolded to a location somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan to interview bin Laden. The sound of antiaircraft fire can be heard in the distance. Bin Laden looks paler and his beard is greyer. While he doesn’t claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, he says that Muslims were behind it and that Muslims have the moral right to commit such attacks because they are done in self-defense. He says, “I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent.” He also says, “This place may be bombed. And we will be killed. We love death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us.” [Reuters, 11/10/2001; Newsweek, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Hamid Mir, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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