He was a nice, quiet boy, a loner, kept pretty much to himself. Then he got a little funny in the head — but we never saw it coming.

So suggests Osama bin Laden’s high-school English teacher, remembering him as “extraordinarily courteous . . . probably partly because he was a bit shyer than most of the other students.” From shy teenager to world-renowned criminal: The career arc that CNN correspondent Bergen’s oral history describes surely seemed unlikely to the wealthy Saudis among whom bin Laden came of age, though all the signs were there; a neighbor, for instance, recalls that though bin Laden was fond of Westerns and kung-fu movies, he was also a priggish fundamentalist who dreamed of liberating Palestine and chided his siblings for ogling the maid and wearing short-sleeve shirts.

Wednesday, Nov 09, 2005 jordan blasts

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think there are two leading candidates. One is, of course, Zarqawi’s group which goes by the name of Tawhid when it was based — when he was based in Jordan. “Tawhid” is the word for the unity of god.

Monday, Oct 24, 2005 Blowback from the Iraq war

When the United States started sending guns and money to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s, it had a clearly defined Cold War purpose: helping expel the Soviet army, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. And so it made sense that once the Afghan jihad forced a Soviet withdrawal a decade later, Washington would lose interest in the rebels. For the international mujahideen drawn to the Afghan conflict, however, the fight was just beginning. They opened new fronts in the name of global jihad and became the spearhead of Islamist terrorism. The seriousness of the blowback became clear to the United States with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center: all of the attack’s participants either had served in Afghanistan or were linked to a Brooklyn-based fund-raising organ for the Afghan jihad that was later revealed to be al Qaeda’s de facto U.S. headquarters. The blowback, evident in other countries as well, continued to increase in intensity throughout the rest of the decade, culminating on September 11, 2001.

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2005 taysir alouni sentencing

On Monday a Spanish court sentenced Taysir Alouni , a fifty year old al Jazeera television reporter with a heart condition, to a term of seven years for “collaboration with a terrorist organization.” Alouni had been al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Afghanistan during the Taliban era, one only of a couple of television reporters based full time in Kabul who covered the ultra fundamentalist movement. The evidence that was used to convict Alouni was that in 2000 he had given $4,500 to some Syrians living in Afghanistan who were alleged to have been part of al Qaeda. An important part of the supposed evidence of Alouni’s collaboration with al Qaeda was also an interview he conducted with Osama bin Laden six weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

Saturday, Sep 10, 2005 Reading Al Qaeda

Al Qaeda, which means “the base” in Arabic, lost its physical base in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, so now its ideological base can be found not in the training camps of the Hindu Kush but on the Internet and in the books that leaders of the movement serialize in Arabic newspapers. These Web sites and publications are aimed at reaching a wide audience in the Muslim world. For instance, the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat is arguably the most influential newspaper in the Arabic-speaking world, while Abu Musab al Suri’s 1,600-page history of jihad, The International Islamic Resistance Call , was posted to a jihadist Web site in Dec. 2004. Once it was posted, the book could then be copied to thousands of other such sites. It turns out that the first truly virtual books are being published not only by Silicon Valley whiz kids but also by jihadists.

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, “L’islam revolutionnaire”, (Editions du Rocher, Paris 2003.) Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, the notorious terrorist and mass murderer, has weighed in on the war on terrorism from his Paris prison cell. In what must surely qualify as one of the more tasteless exercises in publishing history, Carlos holds forth windily about how the United States got what it deserved on 9/11 because of its imperialist policies.

Thursday, Aug 04, 2005 Best Books War on Terrorism, 2004

It may have been a very mixed year for America’s progress in the war on terror, but it was a very good year for book buyers trying to understand the evolution of al Qaeda, the Bush administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism, and the future direction of jihadist terrorism.

Thursday, Aug 04, 2005 New al Zawahiri tape

Our terrorism analyst Peter Bergen joining me now from Washington to talk about this latest tape.Peter, good morning.PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Good morning, DarynKAGAN: Not to say, told you, but just earlier this week you were right here on CNN saying this — let’s listen.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)BERGEN: I think Ayman al-Zawahiri or bin Laden […]

Friday, Jul 29, 2005 Militant London Clerics

It has become trite to say that, on September 11, 2001, Americans realized anew that it was important to pay attention to what was happening on distant shores, that developments taking place half a world away could suddenly and devastatingly threaten the lives of people here at home. This realization was important, but it cemented a view of Islamist terrorism as an external threat. The West–the United States and Europe–was the target of this terrorism, but not its source, which was to be found elsewhere, in some foreign land, where it was cooked up under the spiritual tutelage of the radical Islamist clerics of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. 

Wednesday, Jul 13, 2005 Jihadists Killing Fellow Muslims

·The four terrorist attacks in London, one of which occurred in the Edgware Road area, a largely Arab neighborhood in central north London reminds us that jihadist militants have been especially successful in one area: Killing fellow Muslims.  Western governments should exploit the fact that al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslims. […]