Osama a myth, couldn't be behind 9/11: bin Laden guru

Osama a myth, couldn't be behind 9/11: bin Laden guru

By Manish Chand

Khartoum, Sep 4 (IANS) "Osama bin Laden could not have plotted the WTC attacks. Neither did Al Qaeda. It's all a myth created by the West," says Sheikh Hassan Abdallah al-Turbai, the charismatic Sudanese Islamist ideologue who hosted and mentored bin Laden in Khartoum in the early 1990s.

"He came here not to fight. He was building roads and airports and bridges in Sudan. He was a simple man. He could not have done it," Turabi said emphatically to a visiting IANS correspondent when asked whether he thought bin Laden was the key architect of the 9/11 bombings of the World Trade Centre (WTC) in New York that shook the world nearly six years ago. "Anyone who comes here is welcome. Yes, he was angry with the Americans and the British. But he is not the man behind Al Qaeda. Bin Laden comes from southern Saudi Arabia. He hasn't travelled a lot. He is alone," said Turabi, whose niece is married to bin Laden.

Turabi, labelled in the West as the "Black Pope of terrorism," took Osama under his wings after the latter was expelled from Saudi Arabia for protesting the presence of US troops on Saudi soil after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

According to the US 9/11 Commission Report, bin Laden found a haven in Sudan during 1991-1996, a period in which he built a nearly 800-km road from Khartoum to Port Sudan, perfected his jehadi methods and declared a fatwa against the American occupation of Islamic lands.

"He (Bin Laden) may have provided ideological inspiration. But he could not have done it. Every time you are branded as a terrorist, you awaken to your identity," said Turabi, dressed in the traditional Sudanese white robe gelabiya.

Bin Laden, the terror mastermind, was a myth invented by the Americans, said Turabi.

"After the collapse of communism, they were looking for a target. They found it in bin Laden. The devil is now everywhere. Bin Laden is a myth. It's like Che Guevara. It's an image," said Turabi, who speaks five languages and studied law in the University of London and later acquired a PhD from the Sorbonne.

Sitting in the elegant drawing room of his residence in Manshiya, the dark, bespectacled ideologue looks youthful and sprightly for a 75-year-old man and has lost none of his venom for his pet hate, America, after all these years.

"I don't like the quality of the American administration. The Americans are totally ignorant of the world. When I met Ronald Reagan, he thought Sudan was in Latin America," he said.

Terrorism is a relative term after all, he said, breaking into a smirk, peppering his invectives with dark witticism at American "double standards".

"When their kind of people resist, they call it resistance. When they don't like resistance, they call it terrorism," he said, fixing you with an intense stare.

"The biggest human crime was the dropping of the atomic bomb in Sudan. Why didn't they distinguish between combatants and non-combatants then?" he said, his eyes aglow with what the Arabs call seqina, the peace that descends on a devout Muslim when he goes to war.

"Killing of innocents is not fair. But then angry people get violent sometimes," he said philosophically when asked whether he thought it was justified to kill innocent civilians in the name of some cause or other.

Is the world heading towards a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam? It's a carryover of the crusade mindset, said Turbai, who feels that the US is whipping up the issue of alleged mass killings in Sudan's western province Darfur not because of humanitarian reasons but because it is eyeing the country's oil wealth.

Turabi was a key ally of Sudan's President Omar-al-Bashir and a leading Islamist networker but fell out with him over his alleged role in a coup and was imprisoned in March 2004. He was freed in June 2005.

"The Americans want to spread their language and culture. They are very intolerant of other cultures. They have a historical grudge against Islam. They don't want any independent ideology," he said.

Does he see American power declining in the days to come?

"The sun is rising in the east. China is a threat (to the US). India is a threat. They are growing too fast for American tastes."

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.inThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it )