Bin Laden Interviews with Western Media

Since the early 1990s, when Osama Bin Laden was the mujahedin darling of the Afghan war, the media-savvy former al-Qaeda leader agreed to conduct interviews with numerous Western journalists. Eventually, his interviews with these journalists became platforms for him to communicate his message of jihad to the masses around the world.

In late 1993, Robert Fisk of The Independent, ostensibly conducted the first interview with Bin Laden by a Western journalist while he was living in Sudan and overseeing construction and agricultural projects. In Fisk’s article, Bin Laden denied that he had any ambitions for leading a global jihad. Instead, he claimed that Arab media and Western embassies were falsely reporting that his troops from the Afghan war were preparing for their next battles in Algeria, Tunisia, and Egypt. Bin Laden told Fisk, “I am a construction engineer and an agriculturalist. If I had training camps here in Sudan, I couldn’t possibly do this job.”Robert Fisk, “Anti-Soviet Warrior Puts His Army on the Road to Peace: The Saudi Businessman Who Recruited Mujahedin Now Uses Them for Large-Scale Building Projects in Sudan. Robert Fisk Met Him in Almatig,” Independent (London), December 6, 1993, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/antisoviet-warrior-puts-his-army-on-the-road-to-peace-the-saudi-businessman-who-recruited-mujahedin-now-uses-them-for-largescale-building-projects-in-sudan-robert-fisk-met-him-in-almatig-1465715.html.

When Fisk interviewed Bin Laden again in 1996, Bin Laden had been exiled from Sudan and was back in Afghanistan. There, he was also no longer just a construction engineer and agriculturalist, but already an enemy of the United States, Europe, and Arab governments, especially Saudi Arabia. The interview was conducted 10 days after a bombing in al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia killed 19 U.S. soldiers, and though responsibility for that attack has been attributed to both al-Qaeda and Iran, Bin Laden told Fisk that, “This doesn’t mean declaring war against the West and Western people – but against the American regime which is against every American…The explosion in al-Khobar did not come as a direct reaction to the American occupation, but as a result of American behavior against Muslims, its support of Jews in Palestine, and of the massacres of Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon…”Robert Fisk, “A Close Encounter with the Man Who Shook the World,” Independent (London), May 3, 2011, http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-a-close-encounter-with-the-man-who-shook-the-world-2278035.html.

American television networks first interviewed Bin Laden in 1997, and again in 1998. Both interviews, conducted by CNN and ABC respectively, were wide-ranging discussions about the reasons for Bin Laden’s Declaration of Jihad, his vision for overthrowing unjust Arab regimes, and his connections various “Islamic movements” in Chechnya, Kashmir, and the Arab World.Peter Arnett, “Transcripts of Osama Bin Ladin Interview by Peter Arnett,” Information Clearing House, accessed March 15, 2015, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article7204.htm; John Miller, “Greetings, America. My Name Is Osama Bin Laden.,” Esquire, February 1, 1999, http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0299-FEB_LADEN.

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On April 18, 2016, a bomb exploded on board a Jerusalem bus, wounding 21 people in an attack later claimed by Hamas. On April 20, a 19-year-old Palestinian man wounded in the explosion died from his wounds. 

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