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Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University

In this excerpt from his upcoming research report, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen builds on over three decades of experience with the US Army, the CIA, and the US Department of Energy to reveal al Qaeda’s long-standing interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in order to drive the United States from “all Muslim lands” and overthrow the “secular Arab states.”

In 1994 Alman Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s number two, began the search for WMD. Following the 9/11 attacks, he also launched efforts to obtain a fatwa from a Saudi Arabian cleric that would religiously justify their use. At the same time, al Qaeda’s Saudi chief sought to purchase “three Russian nuclear devices.” By May 2002, senior Saudi cleric Nasir al-Fahd had provided the needed fatwa: If Islamists cannot kill their enemies in a “good manner,” they may do so in a “bad” one, with bombs. When they cannot distinguish women and children from the enemy, they may kill innocents as collateral. When infidels use Muslims as a “living shield,” all may be killed.

In Zawahiri’s subsequent statements and writings, especially his 2008 book Exoneration, he both reinforced the religious validity of the early fatwa, making it al Qaeda’s own and providing justification for future attacks producing mass casualties within the United States—“the greatest enemy of Islam and Muslims.” With extensive references to the Quran and the Hadiths, he justified the killing of men, women, and children and described any faithful Muslims among the dead as martyrs. His case for using WMD is consequently both “religious and operational.”

NOTE: Find a similar excerpt at: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/16/al_qaedas_nuclear_ambitions


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