Interviews of Osama bin Laden
Since the early 1990s, several interviews of Osama bin Laden have appeared in the global media. Among these was an interview by Middle East specialist Robert Fisk. In the interviews, Bin Laden acknowledges having instigated bombings in Khobar and Riyadh, but denies involvement with both the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the WTC towers in New York.
Like the videos of Osama bin Laden, the interviews' authenticity is sometimes regarded as suspect.
Bin Laden himself mentioned some of the interviews directly in a 2004 video, saying "you can read this, if you wish, in my interview with Scott in Time Magazine in 1996, or with Peter Arnett on CNN in 1997, or my meeting with John Miller in 1998."
The Independent: 1993, 1996 and 1997
Bin Laden gave his first interview to the Independent newspaper's Robert Fisk in 1993. This was the first he had ever given to a Western journalist. It was titled "Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace," and related to bin Laden and his recruited mujahideen's road building in Sudan overseeing construction and agricultural projects. Also during Fisk's first interview in 1993, he wrote of Osama Bin Laden: "With his high cheekbones, narrow eyes and long brown robe, Mr Bin Laden looks every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend. Chadored children danced in front of him, preachers acknowledged his wisdom" while noting that he was accused of "training for further jihad wars".
Fisk interviewed Bin Laden again in 1996, Bin Laden had just been exiled from Sudan and was back in Afghanistan. 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…”.
During one of Fisk's interviews with Bin Laden, Fisk noted an attempt by Bin Laden to convert him. Bin Laden said; "Mr Robert, one of our brothers had a dream...that you were a spiritual person ... this means you are a true Muslim". Fisk replied; "Sheikh Osama, I am not a Muslim. ... I am a journalist [whose] task is to tell the truth". Bin Laden replied: "If you tell the truth, that means you are a good Muslim".
Fisk again interviewed Bin Laden on March 22, 1997; Bin Laden said of his operations at the time "We are still at the beginning of our military action against the American forces." Also during the final interview in 1997, Bin Laden said he sought God's help "to turn America into a shadow of itself".
Abdel Bari Atwan: 1996
In 1996, Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of the London-based pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi interviewed bin Laden. He had to travel through the mountains, dressed in Afghan clothing. He later called the experience his "most frightening trip". His impression of bin Laden was that he is "a phenomenon, extreme". Atwan stayed in the caves for two days, sleeping in primitive conditions in sub-zero temperatures.
Peter Arnett of CNN interviewed bin Laden in March 1997 after Bin Laden declared jihad on the United States. Asked by Arnett, "What are your future plans?", Bin Laden said, "You'll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing".
CNN producer Peter Bergen who produced bin Laden's interview with Arnett, was also present during this interview, and it became the inter first television interview, in which Bin Laden declared war against the United States for the first time to a Western audience.
Hamid Mir: 1997, 1998 and 2001
Hamid Mir was the first Pakistani journalist to interview Osama bin Laden. He first interviewed Bin Laden for the Daily Pakistan in March 1997, in a cave of Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan. Mir interviewed Bin Laden for the second time for Ausaf in May 1998, in a hideout near the Kandahar International Airport. Mir was the first and the last journalist to interview Bin Laden after September 11 attacks. He interviewed Bin Laden for the third time for Dawn and Ausaf on 8 November 2001, at an undisclosed location near Kabul.
A recorded interview in May 1998, a little over two months before the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, shows bin Laden answering questions posed by some of his followers at a mountaintop camp in southern Afghanistan. In the latter part of the interview, ABC reporter John Miller asks further questions.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a journalist for Pakistan's The News International, TIME, and ABC News, in 1999 secured a four-hour interview with bin Laden in Afghanistan's Helmand province. During Yusufzai's late-night conversation, bin Laden appeared to be in good health, though he admitted to a sore throat and a bad back. He continually sipped water from a cup, and Yusufzai caught him on videotape walking with the aid of a stick. This latter footage was erased by bin Laden's bodyguards. The interview appeared in the 11 January 1999 issue of Time Asia.
The Daily Ummat interviewed Osama bin Laden on September 28, 2001, weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States. In the interview bin Laden denies his involvement in the attacks; the interview was relayed in English by the BBC monitoring service.
Al Jazeera: 2001
- Berube, Michael (2009). The Left at War. NYU Press. pp. 62. ISBN 978-0-8147-9984-0. Quoted during interview by Radio B92
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- "Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace", The Independent, 6 December 1993 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/anti-soviet-warrior-puts-his-army-on-the-road-to-peace-the-saudi-businessman-who-recruited-mujahedin-1465715.html
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- Fisk 1996 interview transcript
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- Arnett interview transcript
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- BBC: International Reports: Full text of Pakistani paper's "exclusive" interview with Usamah Bin-Ladin. Newsbank Archive. (subscription required) Archived 2018-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
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- Berner, Brad K. (2007). Jihad: Bin Laden in His Own Words : Declarations, Interviews, and Speeches. Peacock Books. ISBN 9788124801123.