The Philadelphia Inquirer
November 18, 2001
Deserted houses reveal al-Qaeda
behind were weapons, maps and documents. They depict a worldwide network
War With Terror
Afghanistan - From the street, it looks like an ordinary house in a
middle-class district, as upright and solid as its concrete walls. But
everybody in the neighborhood knew it housed Arab militants loyal to Osama
so did American military planners. Two weeks ago, a U.S. missile pierced
the concrete roof of the house at dawn, exploding in a second-floor room
before disintegrating in a crater in the floor. Witnesses said six people
were injured, none killed.
Friday, workmen swept up the charred debris of what once had been a safe
house for bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization.
on the door to one room, a poster titled "Message from Osama"
shows the flags of the United States, India and Israel in flames. It
wishes a "long life to the Islamic movement of Taliban," the
rigid religious movement that fled the capital on Monday before an advance
of opposition troops.
building was one of dozens of dwellings and barracks scattered around
Kabul that housed the core of the Taliban's strength: Muslim militants
from other countries who came to Afghanistan to learn to attack a Western
culture they viewed as a threat and as an affront to Islam.
picked through by looters or buried beneath rubble - several of the houses
were destroyed by American bombs during six weeks of air strikes - the
dwellings contain a trove of weapons, maps, computer manuals and other
documents that depicted a worldwide network of disaffected Islamic
militants who came here to study and plot terrorism and to join the
Taliban's holy war against America.
of the documents revealed a sophisticated organization - software manuals
in German, notes on the care and use of weapons, instructions on building
a pipe bomb.
of the material reflected an organization that was crude yet dedicated.
The maps were little more than hand-painted illustrations on walls showing
the American military presence in Saudi Arabia. A closet in one house
contained dozens of hard-backed Korans and books on how to read the Koran.
videotapes and cassettes found in some rooms were religious in nature,
except for one documentary tape about "Wild Africa."
that was found about making a nuclear weapon and surviving a nuclear blast
appeared to have been downloaded from public sites on the Internet.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the documents were consistent
with bin Laden's stated desire to acquire nuclear weaponry, but indicated
that al-Qaeda had not developed any such capability.
reported foul-smelling laboratory that suggested the group was trying to
develop chemical weapons appeared to be nothing more than a camphor-soaked
medical storeroom of a house that was formerly a clinic. The storeroom
contained eight-year-old patient medical records and drugs such as
antibiotics and aspirin, along with a bacteriological incubator.
of the debris left behind after the hasty retreat from Kabul depicted the
ordinary life of soldiers: Vitamin tablets, cough syrup, an open jar of
honey, an intravenous dextrose solution. There were expense lists for
items such as fuel and food.
of the militants was learning English and left behind his notebook:
"Who has a pencil? Omar has one."
by the Taliban, disaffected Islamic militants from around the world came
here to study and plot terrorism and to defend this laboratory for the
doctrinaire Islamic state.
group got at least one house: Chechen militants in one, fundamentalist
Uzbek troops in another. The Al-Arab militants, unhappy about America's
friendship with Saudi Arabia, had a house as well.
a large compound at a former Soviet Scud missile base near Kabul's ruined
Darulaman Palace, an entire barracks was devoted to the young recruits
from religious schools in Pakistan, who were often sent to the front with
a few days' training.
buildings were flattened by three American bombs a few weeks ago. Local
scavenger children Friday were extracting scraps of timber from the
unguarded wreckage for firewood.
Taliban militants were often housed in Kabul's better residences,
sometimes confiscated from opposition leaders who fled the capital when
the Taliban captured Kabul in 1996.
a contingent of Taliban came to occupy the former home of Northern
Alliance defense chief Gen. Mohammed Fahim. So many militants occupied the
house that they built six latrines in the back courtyard.
Rahman, the owner of the house who lent it to his cousin, Gen. Fahim,
walked several visitors through the soiled and disorganized house last
were the Taliban's things," said Rahman, walking beside a mural of
the mosque at Mecca, with an eye shedding tears of blood. The Taliban left
behind more than 20 antitank weapons and rooms full of items, including
several copies of a glossy booklet "Announcing Jihad against
Americans" by Osama bin Laden, along with other titles denouncing
like many Afghans, often blame Pakistan for Afghanistan's problems - many
Afghans say the meddling by Pakistan and other countries caused the
23-year-old civil war that never seems to end.
resentment against foreign troops helps explain why many local people
captured and brutally killed Pakistanis and Arabs after last week's
was in the hands of the Arabs," said Rahman. "The Afghan Talibs
were just puppets."
soldiers who occupied this al-Qaeda guest house appeared to have spent
some of their free time on self-improvement.
book, How To Learn Arabic in a Month, lay on the dusty floor. A Taliban
had scratched out the faces of two people on the cover of the book, in
line with the Taliban's edict that the depiction of the human face is a
on another piece of paper, apparently cast aside by a new English student,
arose an opportunity to quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, even in truncated
form: "To be or not to be, that is question."