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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Taleban 'warned US of huge attack'
Taleban news conference in September 2001
Muttawakil (l): Deeply worried by al-Qaeda plans

An aide to the former Taleban foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, has revealed that he was sent to warn American diplomats and the United Nations that Osama bin Laden was due to launch a huge attack on American soil.

Neither organisation heeded the warning, which was given just weeks before the 11 September attacks.

The aide said he had urged the Americans to launch a military campaign against al-Qaeda but was told that this was politically impossible.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden: The Taleban's chief "guest"
Mr Muttawakil, who was known to be deeply unhappy with the Arab and other foreign militants in Afghanistan, learned of Osama bin Laden's plan in July.

The attack was imminent, he discovered, and it would be huge. Bin Laden hoped to kill thousands of US citizens.

Destructive guests

The information had come not from other members of the Taleban but from the leader of the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, Tohir Yuldash, who had found refuge in Afghanistan and had good links with al-Qaeda.

The minister was deeply worried that the US military would react with deadly vengeance against Afghanistan.


The guests [al-Qaeda] were going to destroy the guesthouse [Afghanistan]

Taleban official
As he put it, al-Qaeda, the Taleban's guests, were going to destroy the guest house.

One of his former aides told me how he had been sent to issue warnings.

He went first to the American consulate in Peshawar in Pakistan, then to the United Nations. But neither warning was heeded.

One US official explained why:

"We were hearing a lot of that kind of stuff," he said.

"When people keep saying the sky's going to fall in, and it doesn't, a kind of 'warning fatigue' sets in."

Another diplomatic source said he had thought the meeting was an attempt to rattle the US to please funders in the Gulf, a bid to raise money from al-Qaeda's donors.

Only Taleban alert

And the fact that the aide had been told not to mention Mr Muttawakil's name also led to a downgrading of the information.

At the time, late July last year, 19 members of al-Qaeda were already in place in America, waiting to launch their deadly attacks.

It is already known that American domestic intelligence failed to heed information, but this is the only known alert that came from inside the Taleban movement.

The former foreign minister himself is now unavailable for comment - he handed himself in to the Afghan authorities in February.

He remains in US custody in Kandahar, one of the few senior Taleban whom America has managed to arrest.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Kate Clark
"The information was that the attack was going to be imminent, huge and on US soil"

Key stories

European probe

Background

IN DEPTH
See also:

07 Sep 02 | South Asia
04 Jul 02 | South Asia
17 May 02 | Americas
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