Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Osama bin Laden: High Priest of Terror

Suicide Attacks

On October 21, 2000, while mooring in the port of Aden, located in Yemen on the Arab peninsula, a small motorboat approached the American destroyer U.S.S. Cole.  Considered to be a "friendly" craft sent to assist in mooring activities, the vessel was allowed to approach the warship.  Shortly after the vessel was brought alongside, a huge blast tore a 40-by-20-foot hole in the ship along the Cole's waterline and destroyed the motorboat and its occupants.  Six American sailors were killed in the attack, and 11 were reported as "missing believed dead."

USS Cole, damage from attack
USS Cole, damage from attack (CORBIS)

Within days the U.S. Intelligence community received information from a French intelligence agency that suggested that the attack was carried out by a terrorist cell trained and financed by al-Qaeda.

Following the attack, a video was circulated throughout the Arab world showing bin Laden openly bragging about the attack.  A transcript of the video, given to CNN correspondent Peter Bergen, credits bin Laden saying:

"…The destroyer had the illusion she could destroy anything, but was itself destroyed by a tiny boat.  The destroyer represented the West, and the small boat represented Muhammad."

Although in a different country and under different circumstances, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole and the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have more than one common thread. They were all undertaken by suicide bombers thought to be Islamic extremists with links to bin Laden.

Following the events of September 11, the world became focused, not only on the horror that followed the attacks, but also on the allied campaign to track down bin Laden and his associates. 

Regardless of the increased scrutiny, bin Laden continues to evade capture. He changes his residence as many as several times a week, traveling mostly at night.  He is said to have intimate knowledge of the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.  The intelligence community seems unable to gain knowledge of his whereabouts and has been continually frustrated by false or misleading information.


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