Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--From 9/11 to Abbottabad
in the world, to attack the Pentagon.… [The World Trade Center is] not a children’s school.” Bin Laden gloated as he recounted to the Al Jazeera correspondent the largeeconomic consequences of the attacks: Wall Street stocks lost 16 percent of their value, airlines and air freight companies laid off 170,000 employees, and the hotel chain Intercontinental fired 20,000 workers.
    In a meeting with a toadying Saudi supporter a few weeks after 9/11 that was filmed by al-Qaeda’s media arm, bin Laden showed thathe well understood the propaganda value of the attacks when he explained that the hijackers “said in deeds, in New York and Washington, speeches that overshadowed all other speeches made everywhere else in the world. The speeches are understood by both Arabs and non-Arabs—even by Chinese.” He added that 9/11 had even resulted in unprecedented conversions to Islam in countries such as Holland.
    By now bin Laden was entering the realm of myth. For his supporters he was the noble “Emir of Jihad,” or Prince of Holy War—veneration he did not discourage. Self-consciously mimicking the Prophet Mohammed, who first received the revelations of the Koran in a cave, bin Laden made some of his early videotaped statements from the caves and mountains of Afghanistan. Pro–bin Laden rallies drew tens of thousands in Pakistan, and a beatific image of his face could be found on T-shirts throughout the Muslim world. To his detractors—and there were many, including Muslims—bin Laden was an evil man who had ordered the wanton murder of thousands of civilians in the city many see as the capital of the world. Butwhether you admired or loathed him, there was little debate that he had become one of the few individuals in modern times who had unequivocally changed the direction of history.
    H AMID M IR , the editor of the pro-Taliban Urdu newspaper
, was anatural choice to conduct bin Laden’s only print interview following 9/11. On November 6, Mir was taken from his Islamabad office to meet with bin Laden in Kabul. On the way, he wasblindfolded and bundled up in a carpet in a van, arriving at an al-Qaeda safe house the morning of November 8. Mir, who had previously been skeptical that bin Laden was behind 9/11, started to change his mind when he saw pictures of Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker, in the house where the interview took place.
    Seemingly unaware that thefall of Kabul was only four days away, bin Laden was in great spirits at their meeting, consuming a hearty breakfast of meat and olives. The Saudi terrorist leader privately admitted everything, reaching over to turn off Mir’s tape recorder and saying, “Yes, I did it. Okay. Now play your tape recorder.”Mir turned the tape recorder back on, and bin Laden said, “No, I’m not responsible.”When Mir asked him how he could justify the killing of so many civilians, bin Laden replied, “America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, and Iraq. The Muslims have the right to attack America in reprisal.”
    Mir asked bin Laden to comment on reports that he had tried to acquire nuclear and chemical weapons. Al-Qaeda’s leader replied, “I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may respond with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as a deterrent.” Mir followed up: “Where did you get these weapons from?” Bin Laden responded coyly, “Go to the next question.”
    After the interview was finished, Mir had tea with bin Laden’s deputy, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. “It is difficult to believe that you have nuclear weapons,”Mir told Zawahiri.
    “Mister Hamid Mir, it is not difficult,” Zawahiri replied. “If you have thirty million dollars, you can have these kind of nuclear suitcase bombs from the black market of Central Asia [in the former Soviet Union].”
    This claim was entirely nonsensical. Al-Qaeda never possessed anything remotely close to a nuclear weapon, and the

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