- 3 Lamborghinis up in flames
- Two killed in six-vehicle pile up near Senawang
- Three Lamborghinis go up in flames in pile-up
- East coast may be hit by second flood wave
- Football: 2014 World Cup team-by-team guide
- World Cup draw 2014: Spain kick off with Dutch rematch, England handed tough
- Soi Lek's son up for MCA veep post
- 'Make Sunni Islam official religion'
- World Cup draw 2014: Brazil will host "Cup of Cups" - Brazil president
- Xbox One makes hot debut as console war revs up
- Nadal downs old rival Federer to reach final
- FLOOD : Kuantan town centre almost paralysed, 37,100 evacuated in 4 states
- Flood relief boat capsized, six passengers escape death
- 'Extend AP system to 2020 to help Bumis'
- World Cup draw 2014: Boateng brothers to square off again in Brazil More
BUSINESSLIKE: His letters show that he was worried al-Qaeda branches were making the network look bad, writes Lee Keath
DURING his last months holed up in a villa in Pakistan, one of the concerns on Osama bin Laden's mind was image control: al-Qaeda's branches and allies were making the terror network look bad in the eyes of the Islamic world.
A newly released selection of letters captured in the United States raid that killed Osama a year ago shows the al-Qaeda leader was meticulous in tracking how his associates' actions and public statements reflected on the cause of jihad, or holy war.
And he frequently tried to keep them in line.
In an October 2010 letter to a top lieutenant, Osama complained about Faisal Shahzad, the militant recruited by the Pakistani Taliban to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square. The May 2010 bombing failed. During his trial, Shahzad, a Pakistani who gained US citizenship, told the court he "didn't mean it" when he took his American citizenship oath, which includes a vow not to harm the US.
Osama said lying about an oath broke Islamic law.
"This is not the kind of lying to the enemy that is permitted. It is treachery," Osama wrote. He told his lieutenant to take it up with Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and ensure it didn't happen again.
"You know the negative effects this has if this matter is not resolved and if the Mujahideen are not cleared of the suspicion of breaking an oath and treachery."
The letters point to the complicated relationship between Osama's "al-Qaeda Central" and its branches and allies.
Pakistani Taliban are close to al-Qaeda and the branches in Yemen, Iraq and North Africa use the al-Qaeda name.
But they largely operated independently of the top leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which did not appear to know about most operations beforehand and offered advice and guidance, which was not always heeded.
The 17 letters released on Thursday by US officials do not give a full picture of al-Qaeda's operation or of Osama. The messages, written by Osama and senior associates, are only a small sampling of the trove seized in the raid on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistanr.
In his audiotapes to the world released over the years, Osama was known for his florid rhetoric and highly elevated vocabulary, obscure even to some Arabic speakers.
But there was almost none of that in the private messages to associates.
Osama was businesslike and to the point, whether it was discussing travel arrangements for his sons, advising Algerian militants to plant tamarind and acacia trees in their desert hideouts (they're cheap, don't need much water and can hide you from drones), or telling his lieutenants to try to shoot down US President Barack Obama's plane on a visit to Afghanistan.
He was also unflaggingly polite, even in firm criticism of his "brothers", consistent with the soft-spoken, soothing personality many militants who met him described.
He repeatedly prefaces orders with the phrase: "It would be good if ..."
Osama appeared intent on imposing greater control on al-Qaeda "franchises", though it is not clear he was ever able to do so.
He raises alarm that attacks by the branches that have killed Muslim civilians have "cost the Mujahideen no small amount of sympathy among Muslims. The enemy has exploited the mistakes of the Mujahideen to mar their image among the masses", according to the Arabic originals of the letters posted by West Point's Combating Terrorism Centre.
Once again, he turns to Islamic law, pointing to a set of syariah rules on when civilian casualties are justified during jihad. The branches are playing too loosely with the rules and "in practical terms, it causes great damage to the message of jihad", he writes in a May 2010 letter to the same lieutenant, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, who was himself killed in an August airstrike in the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Instead, he said, they should focus on attacking Americans, whether in the US or in countries where the Mujahideen would not be vulnerable to retaliation.
Osama details an extensive plan to rearrange the administration of al-Qaeda and the branches, by which the central leadership would weigh in on the naming of the branches' leaders and their deputies -- and much like an employer recruiting staff, he asks that biographies of the candidates be sent to the central leaders. Al-Qaeda Central, he said, must issue media guidelines to ensure the branches stayed on message in their statements.
His annoyance is clear whenever al-Qaeda's branches and allies go off message.
He chides militant Pakistani ulama for telling victims of devastating floods which displaced millions in the summer of 2010 that the disaster was punishment for their sins.
He also complains of bad media spin in the plot by al-Qaeda in Yemen to bomb a US jetliner on Christmas Day, 2009, a plot that failed when the would-be bomber botched setting off his explosives on the plane. Osama points out that the branch said the attempted bombing was in retaliation for a US airstrike in Yemen. They should have said the attack was in support of the Palestinian cause, he said.
Such bad messaging, he said, "weakens our position when we say we are an international organisation fighting to free Palestine and all the Muslim nations to establish an Islamic caliphate". -- AP