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Context of '(Early-Mid 1986): Salem Bin Laden Asks Pentagon to Supply Missiles to Arab Afghans, Receives No Reply'

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Salem bin Laden tells one of his employees, George Harrington, that his brother Osama, is, according to a later account by Harrington, “the liaison between the US, the Saudi government, and the Afghan rebels.” Salem, head of the bin Laden family, also says that he must visit Osama in Peshawar, a base inside Pakistan for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin, to check on what equipment the Saudi government is funneling to him. The two men fly up together with another employee, Bengt Johansson, and meet Osama that day. Osama also gives his brother and the two employees a tour of some facilities in Peshawar, including refugee camps, a hospital and an orphanage, and Salem films them to publicize his brother’s charitable work. [Coll, 2008, pp. 7-9]

Entity Tags: Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden, Bengt Johansson, George Harrington

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

According to author Steve Coll, US President Ronald Reagan may be given a briefing about Osama bin Laden’s charitable work in the Soviet-Afghan War, and may also see a video showing aspects of the work. If this is true, the briefing and video would come from Salem bin Laden, head of the bin Laden family, who made the video recently when visiting his brother Osama (see Early 1985).
Summit - Salem is in Washington at this time to attend a summit between Reagan and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. It is unclear what Salem’s role is at the summit, although one of the key areas of co-operation between the US and Saudi Arabia is support for the Afghan mujaheddin, and his brother Osama is a key figure who frequently travels between Saudi Arabia and mujaheddin bases in Pakistan. An attorney will later recall seeing a photograph of Salem and Reagan together at the meeting, but the photo will apparently be destroyed before it can be published.
Possible Briefing - Coll will comment: “It seems probable that when Salem reached Washington that winter, he would have passed to King Fahd, if not directly to the White House, the video evidence he had just gathered documenting Osama’s humanitarian work on the Afghan frontier.” Coll will add that Reagan takes pains to acknowledge Saudi Arabia’s efforts to support Afghan refugees on the Pakistani frontier, saying: “Their many humanitarian contributions touch us deeply.… Saudi aid to refugees uprooted from their homes in Afghanistan has not gone unnoticed here.” Coll will point out that the leading Saudi provider of such aid is Osama bin Laden, and that “Reagan’s language suggested that he had been given at least a general briefing about Osama’s work.” [Coll, 2008, pp. 11-12]

Entity Tags: Steve Coll, Osama bin Laden, Ronald Reagan, Salem bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bin Laden family head Salem bin Laden asks the Pentagon to supply anti-aircraft missiles to Arab volunteers fighting in the Soviet-Afghan War. The request is made on behalf of Salem’s brother Osama, who is establishing a semi-autonomous group of Arab volunteers outside the direct control of local Afghan commanders and will set up a camp just for Arabs later this year (see Late 1986). The Pentagon is asked because the US is already supplying anti-aircraft Stinger missiles to the Afghans. However, it does not reply to Salem, and the reason for the failure to reply is not known. According to a business partner involved in Salem’s efforts to secure the missiles, he makes several attempts to contact the Pentagon, but is unable to locate the right person in the defense bureaucracy. Later research will indicate that there is no formal decision by the Reagan administration not to supply the missiles or other equipment to the Arab volunteers. Pentagon official Michael Pillsbury will later say he was not aware of any such decision, but if such a decision had been taken, he would have been aware of it. [Coll, 2008, pp. 287]

Entity Tags: Michael Pillsbury, Salem bin Laden, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Salem and Osama bin Laden hold a series of meetings with South African arms dealers to discuss supplies for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan. One meeting is held at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, and a person who attends this meeting will later discuss it with a lawyer acting for victims of the 9/11 attacks. The person’s name is not known. The meeting is attended by Osama bin Laden, Afghan commander Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, and two South African officers. The attendees discuss weapons and training. There are other meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between South African suppliers and Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother. Arms purchases are also discussed there. Reportedly, some of the financing for the weapons comes from the Saudi government. [Coll, 2008, pp. 287]

Entity Tags: Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Osama and Salem bin Laden purchase anti-aircraft missiles for Arab volunteers fighting in Afghanistan in a deal concluded at the Dorchester Hotel in London. The transaction results from a request by Osama that Salem help him with two purchases, of the anti-aircraft missiles and of equipment to refill ammunition shells for AK-47 assault rifles.
Middleman - Salem attempted to obtain the missiles from the Pentagon, but was rebuffed (see (Early-Mid 1986)), and brought a German acquaintance named Thomas Dietrich in to help him complete the deal. It is difficult to arrange as, even though the bin Ladens are backed by the Saudi government, they do not have clearance to buy the missiles from Western authorities. Dietrich has contacts at the arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch and also gets an arms salesman to meet Salem and Osama in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. However, the salesman tells Osama that refilling the ammunition makes no sense and it would be simpler to just purchase it on the international market. For the missiles, Osama, Salem, Dietrich and Dietrich’s contacts meet two or three times at the Dorchester Hotel over a period of six to eight weeks. Dietrich will later learn that his contacts help arrange the purchase of Soviet SA-7 missiles in South America, as well as the ammunition.
Paid in Oil - However, there is a problem with the deal because the bin Ladens want to pay for the weapons not with cash, but with oil, “just a tanker offshore,” according to Dietrich. This causes trouble as “a company like Heckler & Koch, they don’t want oil, they want money.” Dietrich is not aware of the source of funding for the purchases, but author Steve Coll will note, “The best available evidence suggests it probably came at least in part from the Saudi government,” because the bin Ladens are “working in concert with official Saudi policy” and “seem to fit inside a larger pattern.” This is a reference to the Al Yamamah arms deal (see Late 1985). [Coll, 2008, pp. 284-288]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Heckler & Koch, Salem bin Laden, Steve Coll, Thomas Dietrich

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

In a post-9/11 indictment, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will claim that one of bin Laden’s brothers is arrested at this time along with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), and Mohammed Loay Bayazid, believed to be an al-Qaeda financier (see December 16, 1994). No contemporary accounts mention this third arrest along with the others, and the name of the brother is not known for certain. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 24 pdf file] However, in a 2006 book, counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will write, “A travelling companion [of Khalifa and Bayazid] who also was briefly detained was Salem bin Laden, brother of Osama.” [Emerson, 2006, pp. 331] This arrest was hinted in a 2003 blog article about Khalifa, which said that Khalifa and Bayazid was arrested with “A brother of Osama bin Laden, whom the FBI declines to name. It’s not entirely clear why the FBI would decline to name this individual, but then the bin Laden family is extremely wealthy and has powerful friends in the US government even to this day.” [Rotten (.com), 12/25/2003] Note this cannot be the same Salem bin Laden who had business ties to future President George W. Bush, because that brother to Osama died in plane crash in Texas in 1988 (see 1988). Nothing more is known about the apparent second brother of Osama named Salem (Osama has dozens of brothers), or his detention in the US.

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Salem binLaden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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