I sketch the meteoric and criminal career of bin Laden’s mentor (and possible murder victim) in my book Onward Muslim Soldiers. Here is his son describing Iraq as the latest site for jihad — something I also detail in the book, so it is hardly a new development (I wrote the book in Winter 2003). But those who think that the jihad has been caused by American intervention there, and would end with American withdrawal, should remember that there were other sites that drew the mujahedin from around the world before Iraq: Bosnia, Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc. The jihad is not primarily a reaction to Western provocations, but an effort to spread the hegemony of Islamic Sharia; the provocations are only a pretext to gain support by playing on perceived grievances, and an opportunity to gain ground.
AMMAN, Aug 29 (AFP) – Iraq is attracting Islamic militants from across the world determined to join the “holy war” against the US-led occupation, the son of Osama bin Laden’s mentor Abdullah Azzam told AFP in an interview.
“Hundreds of Muslims from all over Arab and non-Arab countries go to Iraq to help the resistance end the occupation, spurred by the conviction that jihad is a duty against the occupier,” said Hudayfa Azzam, 34.
He also claimed that the former regime of Saddam Hussein “strictly and directly controlled” members of bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terror network in Iraq before the US invasion, as charged by members of US President George Bush’s administration but refuted by other experts.
In 1984 Bin Laden decided to leave his native Saudi Arabia and follow Abdullah Azzam, better known as “the prince of the mujahedeens” (Muslim combattants), to Afghanistan.
Before being killed with two of his sons in a bomb attack against their car in Afghanistan in November 1989, Abdullah Azzam wrote a five-volume encyclopedia on jihad which has become the reference book for his Muslim followers.
He also founded the Muslim Brotherhood in the Palestinian territories.
His ideology is that “when a Muslim country is occupied the sharia (Muslim law) says that Muslims across the world must strive to liberate that land,” his son told AFP.
“That is why my father was the first Arab to go to Peshawar to help liberate Afghanistan from Soviet occupation,” he said.
Impressed by the lectures Abdullah Azzam gave at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden decided in 1984 to visit Azzam in Amman where he lived to learn more about jihad.
But Azzam was packing up for Afghanistan and invited Bin Laden to follow him there.
Bin Laden took up the offer and agreed “to work in and finance” an office set up by Abdullah Azzam which provided services and guidance to the new mujahedeen recruits, Hudayfa Azzam said.
In 1987 he broke away and set up Al-Qaeda.
“The idea of jihad is the same whether the occupier is Soviet, as was the case in Afghanistan, or American, as it is now in Iraq,” Hudayfa Azzam added.
He said that leading Islamic militants “realised that it is more beneficial not to have too many groups, parties and masterminds because it creates problems”.
“There is effective coordination among the elite members of the resistance in Iraq,” said Hudayfa Azzam, adding that the ideology now prevailing in the embattled country is close to his father’s beliefs.
It is close to the ideology of “liberation movements, such as the (Palestinian radical group) Hamas”, he said.