Oct. 26 — It’s slick, thoughtful—and a highly unsettling guide to assassinations and mass murder. Written by Muslim extremists hoping to wage “holy war” against Arab and Western governments, the handbook has emerged as a manual for the rank-and-file terrorist that draws purported lessons from the experience of the Prophet Mohamed and Iran’s defeated communist party, as well as Israel’s Mossad.
“ISLAMIC GOVERNMENTS have never and will never be established through peaceful solutions and cooperative councils,” it notes. “They are established as they [always] have been: by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth.”
British police found the Arabic-language document during a search for co-conspirators in the Osama bin Laden-organized bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The FBI introduced the translated content—titled “Declaration of Jihad Against the Country’s Tyrants, Military Series”—during the New York trial of embassy bombing suspects last summer. Parts of it, clearly, were used by the men who hijacked the planes used in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
A spokesman for the State Department office on counterterrorism told NEWSWEEK that U.S. intelligence analysts are unwilling to share their judgments on the content. Nonetheless, the manual provides some unexpected insights into the training and mindset of the young men who have joined what it calls the Islamic Military Organization. The book’s dedication begins with the time-honored Islamic invocation, “In the name of Allah, the merciful and compassionate,” but then moves into a rather different realm.
Ranging from the eclectic to the practical, it includes tips on organizing cells and warnings that agents should not forget to put stamps on their mail. There are, too, historical examples of successful and unsuccessful spies, ranging from ancient Romans to World War I German spies to an unnamed American agent who pretended to be a fur merchant—but aroused suspicion by quoting unlikely fur prices. “The confrontation that we are calling for with the apostate [disbelieving] regimes does not know Socratic debates, Platonic ideals nor Aristotelian diplomacy. But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun,” says the guide.
“The main mission for which the [Islamic] Military Organization is responsible is: The overthrow of the godless regimes and their replacement with an Islamic regime,” adds the document. Among its other missions: “assassinating enemy personnel as well as foreign tourists,” “spreading rumors that instigate people against the enemy,” “blasting and destroying the places of amusement, immorality and sin;” and blowing up foreign embassies, vital economic centers and bridges leading into and out of cities.
Many of the 18 chapters contain extended citations from the Quran, the Muslim holy book, to justify espionage, the torture and even killing of hostages, but the authors apparently could not find religious quotations for the chapters on assassination using poisons and “cold steel” like knives.
Undercover cell members are given 22 rules of conduct. Among them: to avoid looking “Islamic” by wearing a beard, chewing a toothpick, carrying a small Quran, or wearing a long shirt. Agents are told not to frequent mosques or Islamic libraries. They are urged to use a code name even with others in the organization, and always carry false personal documents. “When using an identity document in different names, no more than one such document should be carried at one time,” it notes. To avoid drawing attention, it even cautions conspirators to “not park in a no-parking zone.” They also should avoid travel with wives who have “an Islamic appearance” like a veil.
In locating a safe house, cell members should try to rent on the ground floor “to facilitate escape and digging of trenches.” They are also advised that it is preferable to rent apartments “in newly developed areas where people do not know one another”—a practice carried out by several of the hijackers of the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center. In addition, they should arrange “special signs” to show fellow operatives they consider the building to be safe. “Such signs include hanging out a towel, opening a curtain, placing a cushion in a special way, etc.” Nor should tenants of newer apartments talk loudly, “because [newer] prefabricated ceilings and walls do not have the same thickness as those in old ones.”
The book contains an abundance of tips that could be called “tradecraft.” In traveling by train, jihad agents are told to place their luggage in a different rail car from the one in which they are riding. “When cabs are used, conversation of any kind should not be started with the driver because many cab drivers work for the security apparatus,” the manual warns.
In the 10th lesson—“Special Tactical Operations”—members are told that those chosen for missions like assassination and kidnap must have “tranquillity and [a] calm personality that allows coping with psychological traumas such as those of the operation of bloodshed, mass murder. Likewise, [the ability to withstand] reverse psychological traumas, such as killing one or all members of his group.”
There are nine rules for selecting an arsenal to store illegal weapons. Among them: avoid parks, previously used ‘safe houses,’ or rooms that are used by family members. Jihad members who travel to Afghanistan for terrorist training in camps run by bin Laden are told what questions they may be asked by immigration officers.
Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is cited twice, once for the astuteness of Israeli agents in detecting a Palestinian plot to attack then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir—“Allah’s curse upon her”—and the second time for failing to take adequate precautions.
“If you wait for your agent at the agreed-upon location, you could be a target for him. Be especially careful if he goes to the bathroom,” chapter 12 on covert espionage states. “Once, in Belgium, an Israeli Mossad officer met an Arab agent. A few minutes after they sat down, the Arab agent said he had to go get something. When he returned, the Israeli intelligence agent was still there. The Arab agent then pulled out a pistol [apparently retrieved from the bathroom] and shot the Mossad agent several times.” (Perhaps the manual’s writer was also a closet fan of “The Godfather”?)
Equally surprising in view of the aim of installing Islamic rule, is that Chapter 17, an extensive discussion of how to get through a police interrogation, features a long excerpt from the memoirs of an Iranian communist and advises “all brothers should read it.” Among the advice: if one is tortured during interrogation, pretend that the pain is worse than it is and never supply any information because that will lead to worse torture. “The less information supplied during the torture, the lighter the judgment will be,” it says.
The document submitted to the U.S. court does not indicate who wrote it or when it was compiled. But there are repeated references to assaults on Egyptian government officials by Islamic extremists and precise medical references in the discussions on assassinations. Those signs point to the possible involvement of Ayman al-Zawahiri, a doctor who founded the Islamic Jihad, merged it with Al Qaeda in 1998—and the man seen as bin Laden’s most-likely successor.
© 2003 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2013 Newsweek, Inc.