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Bin Laden’s Activities Central To Annual U.S. Report on Terrorism

By Bob Drogin
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Osama Bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi extremist who allegedly masterminded the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in east Africa, has sent terrorist trainers to at least six countries, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

Bin Laden’s growing role was underscored in the department’s annual review of terrorism. Bin Laden was the only individual singled out for a page-long profile in the 107-page report.Bin Laden’s organization, the department said, has sent terrorist trainers throughout Afghanistan, where he has been given sanctuary by the ruling Taliban, as well as to Tajikistan, Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Trainers also have been sent to the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya, according to the report.

Bin Laden’s group also has trained fighters from other countries, the report said, including the Philippines, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan and Eritrea. As a result, “Bin Laden believes he can call upon individuals and groups virtually worldwide to conduct terrorist attacks,” the report warned. In unusually harsh language, the report criticized Pakistan, a staunch Cold War ally, saying it “continues to send mixed messages on terrorism.”

“Despite significant and material cooperation in some areas, particularly arrests and extraditions, the Pakistani government also has tolerated terrorists living and moving freely within its territory,” the report said. It added that Pakistan continues to support militant groups in the long insurgency against Indian control of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Bin Laden, the 17th son of a Saudi construction tycoon, first drew notice in the early 1980s when he helped finance, recruit, transport and train Arab volunteers in the war against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. He founded al-Qaida, or The Base, as his operational organization for “like-minded extremists” during the war, according to the report.

Bin Laden’s primary goals now are to drive U.S. forces from the Arabian peninsula, to remove the Saudi ruling family from power, and to “liberate Palestine,” the report said.