Terrorist's Cookbook

A manual tells terrorist recruits how--and why--they should wage unholy war

The manual was different. Once they gave jurors its English translation, prosecutors didn't have to interpret it, or ask jurors to put two and two together to grasp its meaning. What it said--and what it meant--was clear and chilling.

"Islamic governments are never established through peaceful means," the book said, in the first of many misstatements of history. "The confrontation that Islam calls for with...godless and apostate regimes does not know Socratic debate...But it knows the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing and destruction and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun."

We vow, the author said, "to make their women widows and their children orphans...to make them desire death...to slaughter them like lambs and let the...rivers flow with their blood."

Wadih el Hage, a former Arlington resident, was convicted in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa.
Wadih el Hage, a former Arlington resident, was convicted in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa.
The cover of the terror manual looks benign--not so the image of a sword plunged through a globe found inside.
The cover of the terror manual looks benign--not so the image of a sword plunged through a globe found inside.

The bombers who made the streets around the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania run with blood on August 7, 1998, seem to have followed many of the precepts in the book. It urges that members of the group develop patience in performing their work, "even if it lasts a long time." Witnesses testified that Al-Liby, in whose home the manual was found, came to Nairobi to photograph and scout the embassy there four years before it was bombed.

The manual recommends that false documents include photos of agents clean-shaven, less radical in appearance to the minds of many in the West and the Middle East, and that agents try in appearance and otherwise to blend in with the people around them as much as possible. Trainees were told that, when traveling, they should try to hide their luggage amid that of other people or even, on a train, to put it in a different car than their own. They were also warned not to talk to other people much--a rule that many of the September 11 bombers seem to have followed to the extreme.

One section discusses the technicalities of building bombs, with details of fuses, charges, switches, detonation cord, car bombs and, in one case, a time bomb placed in the radio of an airplane. The agents were advised to use code words in conversation, as prosecutors said the embassy bombers did.

Believers are told that, if arrested, they should complain about their treatment in custody, "take advantage of the visits to communicate with brothers outside of prison" and learn to hide messages. El Hage complained mightily of his treatment in federal custody both before and during his trial, although his lawyers and some others believed the complaints had merit. Part of the sanctions, including near-solitary confinement and a refusal to allow el Hage to communicate with his religious advisor, were imposed because prosecutors indeed feared he would pass information on to other conspirators. Moataz al Hallak, then imam of the Arlington mosque that el Hage attended, also complained that he was not allowed to talk to el Hage. Al Hallak has been questioned repeatedly by federal officials in connection with both the embassy explosions and last month's suicide hijackings. He has not been charged with any crime.


The sections in which the manual's author uses the teachings of Islam to justify murder and savagery make some Islamic scholars fume and others cringe at the continuing and dangerous misrepresentation of that religion.

Even the word "jihad" itself has been corrupted by the extremists, says Imam Moujahed Backhach, leader of the Islamic Association of Tarrant County. "Jihad" can mean many kinds of struggle. But when used to refer to physical conflict, he said, it refers only to defensive struggle, to the right that Islam gives to a person to defend self, family and home. "It is not to be an offensive war waged against innocent people. I don't know what kind of scholar or what kind of Muslim this is" who would write that, he says.

Like most faiths, Islam allows the use of violence to defend oneself or others, and it approves of war for similar purposes--but not terrorism. "There is no text in the Koran that would legitimate any form of terrorism, any form of torture," says Dr. John Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. While the manual praises those willing to become martyrs, Esposito and many others said that this kind of martyrdom--as in the suicide bombings--is a deadly sin in Islam.

Dr. Richard Bulliet, a history professor and authority on Islam at Columbia University, says the author of the manual was no Islamic scholar. "This just sounds like someone who is picking fragments here and there, ignoring the vast scholarship about the Koran, in order to inflame feelings or justify bad things. That is something scholars really don't do," he says.

Esposito adds that, in calling down the protections of religion, bin Laden and the other Islamist terrorists are following the same path taken by other extremists. "People who blow up abortion clinics or [people] who commit acts like the assassination of [Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin search out religious texts that enable them to frame essentially political acts as religious," he says. "You've moved beyond 'I told you to do this.'...If God wants you do to it, then you don't question the nature of the act."

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