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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy’s gripping history of the terrorist network, from 2001 to the present, reveals a dark web of familial and political machinations

    In the days following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, there was a surge of interest in the family of the al-Qaida founder and leader. One son had been shot dead during the raid on the high-walled house in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad, while confused reports described at least a dozen children or grandchildren, and between two and four wives, left stunned and bloodied by the US special forces when they left.

    But the story moved on. Three years later, al-Qaida was pushed into the shadows by a breakaway faction, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis). The centre of gravity of Islamic militancy seemed to have shifted decisively to the Levant. The family of bin Laden were forgotten.

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    The investigative reporters have produced a revelatory work about al-Qaida members in hiding in Pakistan and Iran between 2001 and 2011

    At the time of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden was in an Afghan cave, unable to get a decent TV satellite signal and forced to follow developments on the radio. The contrast between his situation and his impact was to be a theme of the next decade until, eventually, the Americans caught up with him in the raid on Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. It’s a decade that The Exile describes with a remarkable amount of impressive new detail.

    Investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy start with a detailed account of Bin Laden’s movements. When the US air strikes began, he flitted through various locations in Afghanistan, all the while trying to manage the movements of his wives and children. He was on his way to a meeting with Mullah Omar in Kandahar on 7 October 2001 when a US drone came close to killing them both. From there he moved to an underground complex in the Tora Bora mountains near the Pakistan border. The US assaulted Tora Bora but, again, Bin Laden managed to slip away, and on 14 December 2001 he turned up in the Pakistani city of Karachi. Feeling too exposed there, he moved back to Afghanistan in February 2002 before reaching northern Pakistan in the summer. There he lived with one of his wives, Amal, and their nine-month-old daughter Safiyah in the remote village of Kutkey, home to the in-laws of his courier and guard, Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti.

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    CIA released journal as part of 470,000 documents collected from Bin Laden’s house, showing he visited the UK as a teenager and found it to be ‘decadent’

    A summer trip to the UK as a teenager and visits to Shakespeare’s birthplace convinced Osama bin Laden that the west was “decadent”, the late leader of al-Qaida and architect of the 9/11 attacks wrote in his personal journal shortly before he was killed by US special forces in 2011.

    The journal is among 470,000 documents collected from the house where Bin Laden died that were released by the CIA on Wednesday. The agency said it had released the treasure trove “in the interest of transparency and to enhance public understanding of al-Qaida and [bin Laden].”

    Today we released nearly 470,000 files recovered in 2011 raid on Usama Bin Ladin’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.https://t.co/QZcoAu3uEwpic.twitter.com/Dn8awV9ndn

    Related: Isis captures territory around former Bin Laden stronghold in Afghanistan

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    The CIA has released previously unseen video of Osama bin Laden's son and potential successor in a trove of material recovered during the May 2011 raid that killed the al-Qaida leader at his compound in Pakistan. The video offers the first public look at Hamza bin Laden as an adult. Until now, only childhood pictures of him have been seen

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    It tells US president the 1,800-mile barrier will help end the Afghan war and reduce terrorism

    Pakistan is building a fence along its border with Afghanistan, and it wants Donald Trump to pay for it – or at least some of it.

    The 1,800-mile barrier being constructed will help end “the prolonged agony” of the Afghan war and reduce terrorism inside Pakistan, said Nasir Khan Janjua, the national security adviser to Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the prime minister.

    Related: 'Now is not the time': violence forces refugees to flee Afghanistan again

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    The new drama retells the build-up to the terror attack and how the US’s intelligences services let tribalism and ego get in the way of national interest

    There is a shot, 12 minutes into Hulu and Amazon’s new series The Looming Tower, that serves as the show’s first real jaw-dropper – but it’s so brief that if you blink, you miss it. We have just seen an archive newsreel of Osama bin Laden giving an interview to an ABC reporter from a mountaintop camp in the Hindu Kush, explicitly announcing a terrorist attack in the coming weeks that would target US civilians.

    Related: The Looming Tower review – thorough, thrilling drama retells the road to 9/11

    Related: Review: The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

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    He spent eight years in counter-terrorism before his objection to the US’s use of torture led to his departure. Now, he says, the west must learn from its mistakes: ‘If we don’t, we will suffer for years to come’

    Some American teenagers dream of a glamorous career in the FBI, a chance to shoot guns and catch criminals, but the idea had not occurred to Ali Soufan. At least, not until The X Files. “Mulder and Scully were going round the world looking for aliens,” he says, laughing. It looked fun. Besides, he did not believe he would get in; he was just intrigued by the process. Why did he think they would not accept him? “Well, look at me; I don’t look like an FBI agent, at least I didn’t at the time.” He was an Arab-American and a bit of an intellectual. “I just felt that I wasn’t a law-enforcement guy, that wasn’t what I wanted to do in my life. But I went, I took all the tests.” They offered him a job. Soufan, who had just completed a master’s in foreign relations, thought he would return to academia if it did not work out.

    It was 1997 and Soufan was in his mid-20s. Because of his background – he was born in Lebanon and spoke Arabic – he was assigned to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which was focused on Palestinian and Iraqi groups. But he had become interested in Osama bin Laden while reading Arabic newspapers as a student and in 1998 wrote a memo on Bin Laden for his superiors. It made it all the way up to the head of the national security division, John O’Neill, who would become a mentor and friend (O’Neill later became head of security at the World Trade Center and was killed on 9/11). The FBI and the CIA were already monitoring Bin Laden but Soufan claims “they only looked at him as a financier of terrorism, not as a terrorist operative”.

    I suggest we have to have empathy – understanding the enemy, seeing the world through their eyes

    People who were involved in torture are coming back to run the show, to rewrite history, and I think that is a problem

    Related: Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA director after key Democrats vote in favor

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    Nearly 17 years since 9/11, Osama bin Laden’s family remains an influential part of Saudi society – as well as a reminder of the darkest moment in the kingdom’s history. Can they escape his legacy?

    On the corner couch of a spacious room, a woman wearing a brightly patterned robe sits expectantly. The red hijab that covers her hair is reflected in a glass-fronted cabinet; inside, a framed photograph of her firstborn son takes pride of place between family heirlooms and valuables. A smiling, bearded figure wearing a military jacket, he features in photographs around the room: propped against the wall at her feet, resting on a mantlepiece. A supper of Saudi meze and a lemon cheesecake has been spread out on a large wooden dining table.

    Alia Ghanem is Osama bin Laden’s mother, and she commands the attention of everyone in the room. On chairs nearby sit two of her surviving sons, Ahmad and Hassan, and her second husband, Mohammed al-Attas, the man who raised all three brothers. Everyone in the family has their own story to tell about the man linked to the rise of global terrorism; but it is Ghanem who holds court today, describing a man who is, to her, still a beloved son who somehow lost his way. “My life was very difficult because he was so far away from me,” she says, speaking confidently. “He was a very good kid and he loved me so much.” Now in her mid-70s and in variable health, Ghanem points at al-Attas – a lean, fit man dressed, like his two sons, in an immaculately pressed white thobe, a gown worn by men across the Arabian peninsula. “He raised Osama from the age of three. He was a good man, and he was good to Osama.”

    'He met some people who pretty much brainwashed him in his early 20s. You can call it a cult'

    Reform is beginning to creep through Saudi society; the ban on women drivers has been lifted, cinemas have opened

    Osama's son Hamza may well cloud the family’s attempts to shake off their past

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    Exclusive: union confirmed by Osama bin Laden’s family during interview with the Guardian

    Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader, has married the daughter of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terror attacks, according to his family.

    The union was mentioned by Osama bin Laden’s half-brothers during an interview with the Guardian. Ahmad and Hassan al-Attas said they believed Hamza had taken a senior position within al-Qaida and was aiming to avenge the death of his father, shot dead during a US military raid in Pakistan seven years ago.

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    مرّت حوالى 17 سنة على هجمات الحادي عشر من ايلول/سبتمبر، وعائلة بن لادن لا تزال جزءاً بارزاً من المجتمع السعودي- وهي كذلك شاهد على أحلك اللحظات في تاريخ المملكة. والسؤال هو هل في الإمكان النجاة من شراك إرثه؟

    على أريكة الزاوية في غرفة واسعة، تجلس سيدة ترتدي ثوباً موشحاً بألوان زاهية، والترقّب يعلو وجهها. انعكاس الحجاب الأحمر الذي يستر شعرها، يظهر في واجهة الخزانة الزجاجية المقابلة. داخل الواجهة، صورة مؤطّرة لإبنها البكر تتصدّر الأشياء الثمينة وتلك المتناقلة من جيل إلى آخر. وجه بشوش وملتحٍ. يرتدي سترة عسكرية، يظهر في صور عديدة موزّعة على أنحاء الغرفة: واحدة منها تستند إلى الحائط فوق رفّ. ثمة عشاء خفيف من المازة السعودية وفطيرة جبن بنكهة الليمون يعلو طاولة طعام خشبية واسعة.

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    A memoir of a decade at the highest levels of Islamist militancy by a double agent known as ‘Aimen Dean’ is extraordinary

    When the Taliban regime in Afghanistan collapsed in November 2001, journalists who had been waiting in parts of the country outside the Islamist regime’s authority or in neighbouring Pakistan rushed to bombed-out and deserted training camps where al-Qaida had built the strike force that had carried out the 9/11 attacks.

    I was in the eastern city of Jalalabad as opposition forces still skirmished with al-Qaida remnants on the evening of the city’s fall. After a night in the one functioning hotel, I drove a few miles down the rutted road to Kabul. On several reporting trips into Afghanistan under the Taliban I had heard of a training camp near a reservoir called Darunta, a mile off the main road. It wasn’t hard to reach: a complex of mud huts and barracks down a short road.

    Much is gripping ... but above all it is the human story that captivates. Dean ends up spying on his own family

    Related: My son, Osama: the al-Qaida leader’s mother speaks for the first time

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    The president claims the US should have ‘caught’ the al-Qaida leader earlier, but that ignores basic details of the raid

    Donald Trump has repeated his claim that Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US Navy Seals in May 2011, should have been captured much earlier, seeking once again to blame Pakistan and his political rivals at home.

    Of course we should have captured Osama Bin Laden long before we did. I pointed him out in my book just BEFORE the attack on the World Trade Center. President Clinton famously missed his shot. We paid Pakistan Billions of Dollars & they never told us he was living there. Fools!..

    Related: Osama bin Laden: the long hunt

    Trump’s false assertions add insult to the injury Pak has suffered in US WoT in terms of lives lost & destabilised & economic costs. He needs to be informed abt historical facts. Pak has suffered enough fighting US's war. Now we will do what is best for our people & our interests

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    Saifullah Paracha, the oldest prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, will probably die in detention without ever being charged. His son is currently in a US prison. Both have been in custody for almost 15 years, accused of aiding al-Qaida. But did they?

    Read the text version here

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