Osama bin Laden went to the bizarre length of trying to calculate how many more American deaths it would take to force the US to retreat from the Middle East, his writings have revealed.
The al-Qaida 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 the 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. The hord, which has been compared in size to a small college library, included five computers and about 100 removable digital storage devices or flash drives. It also included a diary that Bin Laden wrote by hand.
US intelligence officers poring through the data told the Associated Press the information underlines how proactive Bin Laden continued to be even when al-Qaida as a movement was on the defensive. Though he didn't appear to have the ability directly to co-ordinate specific attacks from his lair in Abbottabad, he did have input into every major al-Qaida plot, including those across Europe last year, the officials said.
He was also in touch with many of the most dangerous al-Qaida offshoots around the world that some had assumed were working independently, such as the branch in Yemen that has become a leading centre of al-Qaida activity.
He pointed the network in certain directions. One of his missives to his supporters was to stop focusing on the big cities, particularly New York, and spread their targets out to include Los Angeles and other smaller cities. That, he said, would make it easier to have the impact he sought– a high number of American deaths at the same time.
Similarly, he urged them not just to focus on planes but to target trains as well – an instruction that chimes with last week's warning from US authorities alerting people to be especially vigilant on trains. And in a further indication of the al-Qaida leader's thinking, AP says that he also plotted ways to encourage politicians in Washington to war with one another.
The insight into Bin Laden's activities during the six years he is believed to have been hidden away in Abbottabad came as his adult sons called for the UN to launch an inquiry into the killing of their father. In a joint letter the family said it wanted to know "why an unarmed man was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world". "Arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems," they said.
The letter was sent to the New York Times under the name of Omar bin Laden, the 30-year-old fourth son of Bin Laden who lived with the al-Qaida leader in Sudan and Afghanistan but has publicly denounced his attacks on civilians.
Drawing comparisons with Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, the statement said "international law has been blatantly violated" and, referring to the shooting of others in the compound, said Barack Obama had ordered "the execution of unarmed men and women".
Bin Laden said it was "unworthy" of US special forces to kill an unarmed female family member and one of Osama bin Laden's sons, identified in news reports as 22-year-old Khalid. Bin Laden's family said it was calling on Pakistan to repatriate his three wives and several children, who are in military custody.
In a eulogy to Osama bin Laden posted on the internet yesterday, the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, said his group would fight on. "What is coming is greater and worse, and what you will be facing is more intense and harmful."