In Search of Al Qaeda
Produced, Written and Reported by Martin Smith
Co-Produced and Directed by Marcela Gaviria
ANNOUNCER: One year ago, the United States had hoped to destroy al Qaeda once and for all.
Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: The men and women of our armed forces have delivered a message now clear to every enemy of the United States: You will not escape the justice of this nation.
ANNOUNCER: The final battle was supposed to be here, in a mountain retreat called Tora Bora. As the bombs dropped, an army of Afghan mercenaries advanced. Around 250 al Qaeda fighters were killed or captured, but another 700 escaped.
Tonight FRONTLINE reporter Martin Smith follows their trail from the borderlands of Pakistan, across the Gulf of Oman to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, In Search of al Qaeda.
MARTIN SMITH, Correspondent: [voice-over] The words of the song say "My country is the most beautiful in the world, the air and the water are so sweet." My driver played me the tape. What the song doesn't say is that this is also al Qaeda country.
[on camera] This a gorge that takes us up to the Afghan border, that takes us up to a town called Arandu. The locals in the town say that up along this border, U.S. troops are patrolling for al Qaeda.
[voice-over] Four years ago, after the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, I began reporting for FRONTLINE on Usama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. Now FRONTLINE has asked me to come to Pakistan and the Middle East to track what happened to the al Qaeda operatives and foot soldiers who fled Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.
SHAMEEM SHAHID, Translator: There's the post. There is Afghanistan.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] This right in front of us here is Afghanistan.
[voice-over] We'd heard rumors that some of al Qaeda's leaders came across near this border post.
[on camera] Has he seen or heard about anything?
[voice-over] I asked if anyone had seen any al Qaeda men. They said they'd only heard about American troops about 40 kilometers away.
SHAMEEM SHAHID: More than 250
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] More than 250 U.S. soldiers?
[voice-over] This was just the beginning of our investigation into the border regions of Pakistan, an area reputed to harbor hundreds of al Qaeda fighters.
[on camera] An American officer visited this place by himself?
[voice-over] It would take weeks for us to unravel what is really happening here.
[on camera] There are helicopters?
[voice-over] Our journey began in England a few weeks earlier. London is home to a million Muslims. A few are militant extremists with ties to bin Laden and al Qaeda. Abu Hamza al Masri, an Egyptian, preaches at the Finsbury Park Mosque in North London. Twenty years ago, he lost both his hands and an eye in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan.
There are investigators who believe that Sheikh Abu Hamza is a terrorist himself. They point out his mosque once offered military training. Al Qaeda's Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, were among his congregation.
[on camera] What has happened to al Qaeda?
SHEIKH ABU HAMZA AL MASRI, Finsbury Park Mosque: They've gone in the mountains. They've gone into other countries. They've changed their names. They've shaved their beard. Some they have lost their families, and some they are waiting to retaliate.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] As a British citizen, Abu Hamza's freedom is protected, but he is wanted in both the U.S. and Yemen on terrorist conspiracy charges.
SHEIKH ABU HAMZA AL MASRI: You have picked a fight with the whole Muslim nation. Our holy war is basically the only war we can go. We don't go and fight for democracy. We don't go out and fight for- for a land. We don't go out and fight for a certain group. This kind of fight doesn't bring your soul back to you. We fight for God and for the message of God and for the messengers of God and for the return to God. Nothing else.
MARTIN SMITH: I also visited a long-time source, Saad al-Fagih, a Saudi dissident in exile with his own ties to bin Laden. Just last year it was revealed that one of bin Laden's satellite phones had been purchased with al-Fagih's credit card, an issue he doesn't want to discuss.
Today he was showing me that al Qaeda thrives in Internet chat rooms. Al Qaeda, he says, survives on many levels.
Dr. SAAD AL-FAGIH, Saudi Dissident: Al Qaeda does not work like a hierarchy. Al Qaeda regards itself as a college or university which have people coming into courses and then graduated. And then they settle down somewhere, somewhere geographically, somewhere socially, somewhere mentally or intellectually and somewhere in terms of profession and their job.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] You have your ear to the ground. Have you been told where al Qaeda went to?
SAAD AL-FAGIH: No. We have not yet been told specifically. The main bulk of the- I think what Western intelligence talking about, eastern Afghanistan, western Pakistan, it is not far from the truth. They could well be there, the main bulk of al Qaeda and al Qaeda leaders. I would not expectbin Laden to leave Afghanistan. If he would leave Afghanistan, he would leave it to a place in the border of Pakistan and keep moving in and out. I would not expect him to leave Afghanistan forever.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We arrived in Pakistan just a few days after the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning urging all Americans to stay away. Those already in the country, it said, should depart. We were headed for the borderlands, al Qaeda's new refuge. Before driving too far, we were stopped and provided a truckload of soldiers.
[on camera] Right. These are the police that are escorting us.
[voice-over] We had no choice.
[on camera] Apparently, it's not safe to travel through here without an armed guard.
[voice-over] It is sad that a country so beautiful is, in fact, hostile. But signs along the way clearly describe the people's allegiances.
[sign, subtitled: "Long Live Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden"]
MARTIN SMITH: Our translator, Shameem, said the people here were especially bitter about the American bombing of Afghanistan. Apparently, many young men were recruited to fight the Americans by a local religious leader.
SHAMEEM SHAHID: From 7,000 to 10,000 people last October.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] He dispatched- he sent those people- he sent those people into-
SHAMEEM SHAHID: Into Afghanistan.
MARTIN SMITH: -Afghanistan to fight the Americans,
SHAMEEM SHAHID: To fight against the Americans, to fight against the-
MARTIN SMITH: So they joined forces with the Taliban and with al Qaeda.
SHAMEEM SHAHID: Yes. And you know that the majority of these people are still missing. Therefore people from this area, they are too much angry
MARTIN SMITH: The people from this area are angry?
SHAMEEM SHAHID: Angry because their youngsters are missing in Afghanistan still. Therefore, it is considered a dangerous area for the newsmen in general.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We proceeded cautiously. I'd heard about some reports coming from Afghan intelligence sources that bin Laden himself had been sighted in this area just a few weeks back.
[on camera] This is Dir, which is up in the Northwest Frontier Province. And we got here last night. We were told that we couldn't go on the streets and film because it was too dangerous.
[voice-over] An armed guard had been posted outside. He wasn't just standing there to protect us from intruders. He was there to prevent us from heading out into the streets. Confined to the hotel, we sent local messengers out and invited people to come talk.
[on camera] I see on the roadside there are slogans that say "Long Live Mullah Omar and Usama bin Laden." Some of the people support bin Laden.
1st DIR RESIDENT: Oh, yes. Why not? Support. Especially after the Afghanistan war.
MARTIN SMITH: After the Americans started bombing?
1st DIR RESIDENT: Bombing on Afghanistan-
MARTIN SMITH: In October.
1st DIR RESIDENT: People came maximum against Americans.
MARTIN SMITH: Did the people of Dir come out into the streets?
1st DIR RESIDENT: Oh, yes.
MARTIN SMITH: Where?
1st DIR RESIDENT: On this road. From that road. Especially this side.
MARTIN SMITH: You were here during the demonstrations? You were on the streets demonstrating?
1st DIR RESIDENT: Yes.
MARTIN SMITH: Yes. What did they say?
1st DIR RESIDENT: They say that Bush is a dog. Bush, Musharraf dog.
MARTIN SMITH: They said Bush is a dog. Musharraf is a dog.
1st DIR RESIDENT: Yeah, Musharraf is a dog.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] But as much as people told us they hated America's bombs, everyone denied there was any al Qaeda here.
[www.pbs.org: Read the producers' Dir dispatches]
2nd DIR RESIDENT: [through interpreter] Here there's no al Qaeda. It never existed. Afghanistan is very far from here. Give me your address. I'll let you know if I ever see them.
MAYOR: I have not heard any information. We have no any information about al Qaeda.
MARTIN SMITH: The mayor also had nothing to say.
MAYOR: I assure you that there- don't discuss this topic with me because this is- they are not related to us.
MARTIN SMITH: And when we tried to push further, we were stopped.
OFFICIAL: Where are you going?
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Timargarah.
MARTIN SMITH: Straightly? Maybe we see something, we stop. I don't know.
OFFICIAL: Don't try to see, please.
MARTIN SMITH: Why?
OFFICIAL: Situation is not OK.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We were trying to go into one of the nearby tribal areas, but we were told time and again to forget it. We found out that these days, even Pakistani journalists aren't getting in.
[on camera] How come reporters can't go into this area?
KAMRAN KHAN, "The Washington Post": Reporters can go, but the government says that "We cannot guarantee your safety."
MARTIN SMITH: But they won't let me past a roadblock.
KAMRAN KHAN: Yeah. They would say that you have to have a government permission, a written government permission to-
MARTIN SMITH: A non-objection certificate.
KAMRAN KHAN: Yeah, that's right. Yeah.
MARTIN SMITH: But I can't get a non-objection certificate.
KAMRAN KHAN: Yeah, because they think that if you go inside, you'll be kidnapped, and you'll be made another Daniel Pearl.
MARTIN SMITH: You think that's true?
KAMRAN KHAN: Partly, yeah.
MARTIN SMITH: You think it's true that if I went into the tribal areas, I'd be-
KAMRAN KHAN: You run a great risk if you go inside there. Sure.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The tribal areas of Pakistan collectively make up a border belt of about 10,000 square miles. On paper, they belong to Pakistan. In fact, they're beyond control.
AHMAD ZAIDAN, Al Jazeera Bureau Chief, Pakistan: It is a free zone. It is not a matter of free zone after 11 September. It's a free zone since 200 years.
MARTIN SMITH: Ahmad Zaidan is al Jazeera's bureau chief in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. He was one of the last journalists to interview Usama bin Laden. The tribal people, he says, offer protection for al Qaeda because they are Pashtuns with ethnic ties to Afghanistan.
AHMAD ZAIDAN: I don't believe that wholeheartedly they are with Pakistan. And if you go there, you will feel that the food is Afghani food. You know, psyche is Afghani- what you call, Afghani psyche. The mood is Afghani mood. And you know, there are looking to Kabul more than they are looking to Islamabad.
MARTIN SMITH: Until recently, the central government in Islamabad had never asserted its control of the tribal areas. The president of Pakistan is General Pervez Musharraf.
Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, President of Pakistan: We never went in there. For more than a century nobody went in there. So therefore they- it was very difficult for them to even accept Pakistanis there. So therefore, to accept a foreigner, and least of all, may I say an American, is going to be very difficult. It's- they are not going to like it.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] You don't control that part of the country.
Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Well, these are weaknesses in the law enforcement agency, one can say. And certainly, it's just not humanly possible. So therefore, these people did cross the border. And if you've seen the border and you've gone- been to the tribal area, if you've seen the mountains, it's just not humanly possible.
MARTIN SMITH: Hayat. How are you?
[voice-over] Since our chances of ever getting into the tribal areas were slim, we arranged to meet a journalist who could go there.
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: I live in this area.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] His name is Hayat Ullah Khan. As a Pashtun, he is native to the area and able to come and go.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] What's the situation up in there now? What's happening?
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: There the whole of the people, there is a silent supporter of al Qaeda and Taliban.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We sent Hayat off with a list of places to visit and a set of questions to ask. He would be our proxy in the tribal areas.
The United States faces its own access problems here. U.S. troops have been allowed only on the Afghan side of the border. U.S. presence in Pakistan is small, hidden and extremely sensitive.
General Taj-ul-Haq is commander of the Frontier Corps, a force of 65,000 soldiers.
[on camera] Can you discuss what presence there is of Americans inside Pakistan?
Maj. Gen. TAJ-UL-HAQ, Inspector General Frontier Corps: At best, a dozen.
MARTIN SMITH: At best, a dozen?
Maj. Gen. TAJ-UL-HAQ: Yes. But not the forces. Basically, the ground-receiving stations, you can call them, just for intelligence information.
MARTIN SMITH: So these are either FBI or CIA signal intelligence people.
Maj. Gen. TAJ-UL-HAQ: This is just the signal intelligence people, just to download and pass it on to the executing agencies.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The man who runs Pakistan's war on terrorism is Moinuddin Haider.
MOINUDDIN HAIDER, Minister of the Interior, Pakistan: No, no. I mean, the FBI tells our agency the FBI can't go anywhere in Pakistan alone. There will be no success. There will be zero success, let me assure you. FBI on its own can do nothing in Pakistan. This we should be very clear.
DEMONSTRATORS: Taliban! Taliban!
MARTIN SMITH: Pakistan's religious conservatives are especially sensitive about U.S. presence here. Pakistan is an Islamic Republic. It officially recognized and supported the Taliban in Afghanistan. And for many years, Pakistan's security agency, the Inter Services Intelligence or ISI, encouraged religious fanaticism. The ISI felt they needed jihadis to fight in Kashmir against their nemesis, India. They even arranged for young jihadis to train in al Qaeda's Afghan camps. There are as many as 10 jihadi armies operating in Pakistan.
KAMRAN KHAN: There are 50,000 strong, militant, armed people. Most of these people have deep connections with the establishment, the security operators of Pakistan, the intelligence agencies. And these people are very religious. They cannot stand to any notion that a government or army is challenging the people who are religious people, who are religiously motivated people.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Kind of a messy situation to untangle. If you've got al Qaeda and these jihadi groups being tight before 9/11, and now, after 9/11, the Americans pressure Musharraf to sort of untangle this mess, it's not something that gets done overnight.
KAMRAN KHAN: It's very complicated. It's very complicated. It's a very difficult message to convey to these jihadis. So the army and the government, General Musharraf, has to be very cautious. And that's why he's walking on a very tight rope.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The link between al Qaeda and Pakistan's jihadis was made very clear in 1998. That year, the U.S., hoping to kill bin Laden, fired cruise missiles into an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The attack killed 21 members of a Pakistani jihadi group, Harakat al Mujahadeen. They were attending a terrorist summit meeting at the camp. Harakat is still affiliated with al Qaeda.
[on camera] You knew as far back as '98 that these groups- some of these groups had- Harakat Mujahadeen had taken training in al Qaeda camps.
Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Al Qaeda was not a known factor at all. The issue was Kashmiris, where India used to say that there is cross-border terrorism going on. And we always said that this is an indigenous freedom struggle, and we never call them terrorists. And we never spoke of al Qaeda till this missile attack against Afghanistan, where this Usama bin Laden emerged. Now, that was late in year 2000, I think. Even-
MARTIN SMITH: The missile attack on him was in '98, August 21st of 1998, the Khost camp. There were missiles sent in, killed 21 Harakat members.
Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Harakat members. Yes. Well, I'm not very familiar with the dates. But again, this was not- yes, this was Harakat all right, but no- no talk of al Qaeda. I don't- I don't think so at all.
MARTIN SMITH: But in February, bin Laden had announced the Islamic Front for- Against Crusaders and Jews. And signing that was the Pakistani Scholars Association, a Pakistani extremist group. There was training going on in Afghanistan. Why didn't you crack down sooner on them?
Gen. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: No. That was- that was not possible. As I said, the environment was totally different.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] But Pakistani jihadis have continued to affiliate with al Qaeda. In February 2002, they helped bin Laden's chief of recruitment, Abu Zubaida, move through the tribal areas to Faisalabad, a city near the Indian border and major jihadi base. Abu Zubaida settled in this house with a group of Yemenis, Saudis and Sudanese. The ISI monitors Faisalabad's jihadis closely, but Zubaida's presence went unreported.
[on camera] What triggered the raid on Faisalabad in March?
MOINUDDIN HAIDER: Well, I think there was a lead by FBI because some of these people were using communications which we don't have the equipment to monitor, but FBI did. And police went in for action, which was very successful.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The FBI had traced a satellite phone call and then gave the coordinates of the house to the Pakistani authorities. Pakistani security forces arrived in the early morning hours of March 28th.
MALIK MOHAMMAD KHALID, Police Inspector, Pakistan: [through interpreter] We reached the house at 2:15. I announced on the bullhorn, "You are surrounded." We asked them to surrender. They said, "We will not surrender under any circumstances." We broke down the doors and went up the stairs to the roof.
MARTIN SMITH: Soon Inspector Khalid would be face to face with Abu Zubaida, who would employ a tactic often used by al Qaeda fighters when they are cornered.
MALIK MOHAMMAD KHALID: [through interpreter] He said, "Tell us who you are" I said, "We are Muslims, and we are policemen." He said, "No, you are not Muslim."
KAMRAN KHAN: Whenever these people are caught, they always play Islamic card. They always play a Muslim card. They like to, you know, motivate their interrogators. They like to, you know, influence their interrogators. And in most cases, they say, "You can kill us. No problem."
MALIK MOHAMMAD KHALID: [through interpreter] He said, "Allah-u Akbar" three times, "I am ready to be a martyr. Kill me." He grabbed me by the neck. There were scratches on my throat. When he got shot, he let go of me. He was a brave and courageous man. I have never seen such a brave man in my entire career. When we point the Kalashnikov at somebody, they usually throw their weapons away. But even though he saw my Kalashnikov and all our other weapons, he remained calm and determined- "I will not surrender, whatever you say. You may shoot me."
MARTIN SMITH: Abu Zubaida was shot three times in the stomach, in the legs and groin, and then rushed to a local hospital. He survived his injuries and was handed over to the United States.
[www.pbs.org: More on radical Islam in Pakistan]
In the spring of 2002, there were a number of other clashes with al Qaeda, mainly in the tribal areas, in places we asked our Pashtun reporter, Hayat Ullah, to investigate.
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: This is a tribal jirga.
MARTIN SMITH: In all, Hayat spent seven days shadowing tribesmen and the army in north and south Waziristan. He brought back 16 hours of exclusive material from places that have rarely been photographed.
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: This home is demolished by the tribal elders and the political administration. It is a demolished home of al Qaeda.
MARTIN SMITH: He showed us this footage from a battle site in Wana, in south Waziristan. Tribesmen here had sheltered 30 al Qaeda fighters. When the army moved in, al Qaeda opened fire and 10 Pakistani soldiers died.
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: This is the blood of a soldier, Pakistani soldier. And this is the whole situation of the bloody area.
MARTIN SMITH: All 30 al Qaeda men escaped.
[road sign: Attention: Entry of foreigners is prohibited beyond this point by order of government]
MARTIN SMITH: Historically, the Waziris are the most feared of all Pashtun peoples. A 1911 encyclopedia states that the Waziris are "a race of robbers and murderers." What they are is fiercely independent. In the last 100 years, they've fought off all invaders, laying the British to rest in 1900 and helping their Pashtun brothers in Afghanistan defeat the Russians in 1989. Now they are determined to keep out the Americans. When they are not fighting outsiders, they fight each other.
HAYAT ULLAH KHAN: Now we are traveling in a most dangerous area because we listen to the firing of the two tribes, two rival tribes. And the area is very risky.
MARTIN SMITH: The government of Pakistan has always operated on the assumption that any effort to impose law and order here will seriously backfire. But now, under pressure from the U.S., they are trying to make deals with the tribesmen.
KAMRAN KHAN: About four months ago, the tribal leaders were called and told that, "If you don't listen to the Americans, they are going to bomb you out here. And so you must understand this."
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] No question in your mind that al Qaeda has used those tribal areas as a sanctuary?
KAMRAN KHAN: A sanctuary? Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Definitely. Oh, sure.
Maj. Gen. TAJ-UL-HAQ: The people reached an agreement with us that if they give protection to anyone- anybody found giving protection to al Qaeda members, any foreigner, his house will be destroyed and he will have to pay 700,000 Pakistani rupees. Now, that is a very heavy sum.
MARTIN SMITH: That's about $10,000.
Maj. Gen. TAJ-UL-HAQ: That's about $10,000, a little over $10,000. And the people of this area are very poor people. They can't pay that kind of money. Right now, every individual malik [sp?], the elders, they are with us.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] But do the tribesmen support the government against al Qaeda? Two days before our reporter arrived in this town, Janikhel, a group of eight young men came through this checkpost chanting, "Allah-u Akbar," "God is great." Their cries awoke a guard, and an argument ensued. But before the men could be arrested, an angry group of 200 tribesmen gathered and wrestled them away, telling the police the men were religious scholars.
The police claimed the tribesmen had four al Qaeda men among the eight and called in the Pakistani army. With a concealed camera, Hayat was able to take these exclusive pictures of the operation.
[www.pbs.org: View more exclusive footage]
In the battle of Janikhel, the army used mortars and tank cannons. When it was over, 15 houses had been demolished, including the home of a local religious leader. More than a dozen tribesmen were arrested. But the eight so-called scholars, including the four al Qaeda suspects, remain under the protection of locals.
One day later, there were protests.
1st PROTESTER : [at rally] [subtitles] Listen, Musharraf. You are planning to turn over our respected scholars to the Americans. But remember, you can never take these scholars away from us. This is our pledge!
2nd PROTESTER: [subtitles] If al Qaeda means wanting Islam, wanting an Islamic system, wanting the Koran, if al Qaeda means not accepting American domination, if that is what al Qaeda stands for, then all Muslims are al Qaeda!
MARTIN SMITH: Stoking the people's anger about the pursuit of al Qaeda, the religious parties swept 52 seats in Pakistan's recent parliamentary elections. They'd never before held more than 4. These results shook Pakistani politicians, raising questions about how aggressively the war on terrorism can be pursued here without destabilizing President Musharraf.
[on camera] Do you think that Bush knows what kind of arrangement that he's gotten himself into here?
KAMRAN KHAN: Oh, sure, he does, but I think he cannot afford to disturb the situation. He just cannot afford to because he doesn't know, because if Musharraf goes, what comes next? The bottom line with Pakistan is that they don't want to have an armed rebellion in the tribal areas. They don't want to take things to a limit where there is an armed rebellion. And there can be because these people are armed to the teeth. They have heavy machine guns. They have got artillery. They have got a tremendous amount of firepower available with them.
PROTESTERS: [subtitles] Down with America! Long live the Mujahadeen of Waziristan!
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] No U.S. forces have been allowed in the tribal areas, even though there is active speculation that this is where Usama bin Laden is still hiding.
By the summer of 2002, the hunt for al Qaeda was heating up in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi. Several thousand Arabic-speaking people live here, and al Qaeda's Arabs can fit in easily.
AHMAD ZAIDAN: Karachi is a very, very big city, 12 million population, and it's very easy for you to hide over there. It's not a big deal. And it is very difficult for America to bomb Karachi, for example, you know? And- at the same time, it is very difficult to find out the exact location of those people hiding in Karachi where there are more than 12 million.
MARTIN SMITH: On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, the day before we arrived in Karachi, the police took up positions around this deserted apartment house. They had been tipped off to look on the top floor.
The shootout lasted three hours. Afterwards, the police emerged with this man, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, a former member of al Qaeda's Hamburg, Germany, cell, which played a leading role in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks. Bin al Shibh had been living in the apartment for a month. One of his dying roommates left his captors a message in blood.
[on camera] What was found in the house in Karachi?
MOINUDDIN HAIDER, Minister of the Interior, Pakistan: Two laptops, lots of diskettes, money, weapon, grenades, things like that.
MARTIN SMITH: There was nothing- there were no messages in blood written on the walls?
MOINUDDIN HAIDER: No message- message in blood was- you know, the basic alma [sp?] that "Allah is great and Mohammed, peace be upon him, is his true prophet."
MARTIN SMITH: "God is great," in blood on the wall?
MOINUDDIN HAIDER: Yes. He said, "God is great, and Prophet Mohammed is his true prophet."
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] In total, the Karachi raid netted eight Yemenis, two Egyptians anda Saudi. However, the police now believe they just missed capturing another major al Qaeda figure. His wife and child were found in the apartment, but he was gone. His name is Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He is the current head of al Qaeda's military committee, and the FBI now believes he was the chief mastermind of 9/11. Investigators think he is either still hiding in Karachi, perhaps in disguise, or he might have fled across the Gulf.
SAYED ISHAQ GAILANI, Nat'l Solidarity Mvmnt of Afghanistan: A big number of Arabs left by sea from Pakistan and Iran to their countries.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] By sea?
SAYED ISHAQ GAILANI: By sea.
MARTIN SMITH: By small boats?
SAYED ISHAQ GAILANI: By small boats. A big number of peoples are their- their businesses is smuggling. They are looking for money. And they do it very easily.
MOINUDDIN HAIDER: There are so many rackets which are going on, people going on boats in- towards Dubai and Abu Dhabi and Muskat. We have deployed additional security forces people there, and we are very alert on the Makran coast border now for the last several months.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Once they leave, they must run a gauntlet of ships in the Gulf of Oman. This is a Canadian destroyer, part of a dragnet of more than 100 warships from a dozen countries patrolling these waters. Since November of 2001, they've hailed over 17,500 vessels.
CANADIAN SAILOR: We want to visit your vessel. Over.
[www.pbs.org: Read producers' warship dispatches]
MARTIN SMITH: But they've netted only four low-level al Qaeda suspects. Two are shown being caught in this video. The coalition admits that many other small boats can pass undetected at night. They head for Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf states are where many of al Qaeda's men and most of al Qaeda's money comes from.
We came here, to Saudi Arabia, where Usama bin Laden was born and raised. With some music on our tape deck, we could easily be somewhere in the American Southwest. Riyadh, with its four-lane highways lined with condos and fast food joints, could be Phoenix.
But this is a strange land. It's a society of non-stop propaganda, where power is absolute and conformity strictly enforced. It is ruled by a family which today is functionally headed by Crown Prince Abdullah. We were allowed to watch his weekly majlis, where subjects line up and jostle one another in hopes of getting few seconds and a favor from their leader.
Suddenly, I was given the opportunity to ask him two questions.
[on camera] Why do you think there's so much distrust between the United States and Saudi Arabia?
INTERPRETER: His Highness is asking you the question, "Who's the reason? Why is it this way?"
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] I had been told that the Crown Prince had never done a TV interview before. I tried again.
[on camera] What do you believe is behind this trend?
ABDULLAH BIN ABDULAZIZ AL-SAUD, Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia: [through interpreter] I am asking you that question.
MARTIN SMITH: I'm the one that asks questions. You're supposed to answer them. [laughter] The fact that has gripped America in great fear is that 15 of the 19 hijackers came from this country, unfortunately. So they are asking what kind of country produced these people.
INTERPRETER: His Highness is saying that we also could ask this same question about Timothy McVeigh. Who produced Timothy McVeigh? Who produced these kids who go to schools and- and shoot around?
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Saudi Arabia is a contradictory country. It may look like the West, and oil money has brought a flood of Western goods, but the wrenching changes to what only a few years ago was a tribal society has brought a strong counterreaction from religious conservatives.
In this mall, we saw the Mutawa, the religious police, on patrol to make sure no girls talk to boys or no Saudi woman drops her veil. The Mutawa represent a part of Saudi society that, at its extremes, include many who are deeply sympathetic with al Qaeda. These sympathies have made the Saudis reluctant to speak publicly about how much they are cooperating in the war on terrorism.
Saudi Foreign Minister is Prince Saud al Faisal.
Prince SAUD AL FAISAL, Foreign Minister, Saudi Arabia: There is a reticence. We are a shy people, basically, that to come out and say, "I did this and I did this and I did that" is against the nature of- of the desert people.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] Of the foot soldiers who have been arrested and handed over to the Americans and are in Guantanamo, most are Saudis, though. The largest number of them are Saudis.
Prince SAUD AL FAISAL: I don't know the exact number, but I will take your word as the truth. It could be. It could be. But I think you must understand how shocking it was for Saudi Arabia to wake up one day and find that your son is a mass murderer.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] It took five months for the Saudi government to admit that most of the hijackers were Saudis, even denying it long after the Americans provided DNA evidence. The U.S. is pressing for more frankness. They are especially interested in six radical Saudi sheikhs, religious leaders who investigators believe may help them uncover Usama bin Laden's network in Saudi Arabia. One of them is Salman Alodah.
[on camera] Is bin Laden a bad man, a bad Muslim?
SHEIKH SALMAN ALODAH, Islamic Cleric: [through interpreter] He is a Muslim. I believe that the American administration and its bullying of the world is forcing an increasing number of Muslims to think differently.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] In 1994, Alodah was leader of a protest against the government known as the Buraydah uprising. Alodah called for an end to government corruption. He was thrown in jail for five years. He now refuses to talk about what I came to discuss.
[on camera] You knew bin Laden. You met bin Laden. Did you-
SHEIK SALMAN ALODAH: [through interpreter] I think we should end this. We have digressed from the subject that we agreed upon.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] It was clear that he would not or could not speak his mind. After an hour of trying, we left.
A few days later, we flew south to Yemen. Usama Bin Laden also has close ties to this country. His late father was born in Yemen. His fourth wife is from here. Bin Laden once told a reporter, "The choice is between Afghanistan and Yemen. The geography of Yemen is mountainous, and its people are armed tribespeople. It allows one to breathe clean air without humiliation."
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI, Fmr. Prime Minister, Yemen: There is this romantic notion in the minds of some Islamists in the Middle East, and even East Asia, that Yemen is a place to be safe. Now, Bin Laden believes, and others, they think that the mountains of Yemen are the most fortified, the safest place to ever be there. And even they quote the Prophet in a false hadith, we call it, "If crisis prevails, you have to run to Yemen." And that is in the books for hundreds of years.
MARTIN SMITH: Yemen, like Pakistan, has large tribal areas, which are among the poorest regions in the Middle East. Historically, the country has been isolated. It also has been a haven for al Qaeda.
The U.S. was so concerned about Yemen that in 2001, President Bush appointed the State Department's counterterrorism Chief, Edmund Hull, as U.S. Ambassador.
[on camera] How present is al Qaeda in Yemen?
EDMUND HULL, U.S. Ambassador, Yemen: Al Qaeda has a number of operatives here, a number of cells. It's not on the scale of Afghanistan, where you had fixed, large-scale training camps. It's a rather limited number of people, who are active and play important roles in the international al Qaeda network.
MARTIN SMITH: And how active?
EDMUND HULL: We know that they are planning. We know that they equipping. We have to presume they're training. And they can identify targets and plan effectively against targets.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Since 9/11, eight terrorist attacks have rocked Yemen's capital, Sana'a. The attacks were, in part, a response to the government's detention of over a hundred al Qaeda suspects. A group called Sympathizers of al Qaeda distributed leaflets after two of the bombings.
[on camera] That's a group, capital S, Sympathizers of al Qaeda, that wrote these communiques. Who are these people? Weren't they saying that if there is not a release of these people-
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI: No, they were saying, "If you don't release our brothers" - and they are still saying this-
MARTIN SMITH: They'll bomb.
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI: -"we will continue to bomb."
MARTIN SMITH: Right
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI: And they are still saying this today.
[voice-over] America woke up to terrorism in Yemen in October of 2000, when the attack on the USS Cole left 17 U.S. soldiers dead. In the ensuing investigation, the FBI was continually frustrated by the lack of cooperation from the Yemeni police.
[www.pbs.org: Roadblocks in the Cole investigation]
After September 11, 2001, President George Bush called his Yemeni counterpart, President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and asked him to come to Washington. Behind the photo-op smiles there was tough talk. Bush told Saleh that he wanted two important al Qaeda lieutenants handed over immediately.
Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al Qirbi was at the meeting.
[on camera] The U.S. gave you their names and told you that they wanted them arrested?
ABU BAKR AL QIRBI, Foreign Minister, Yemen: That's right. Yes.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] The men were Mohammed al-Ahdal and Ali Qaed Sinan al-Harethi, one of al Qaeda's top operatives and the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing. Both men were said to possess guns, satellite phones, computers and lots of money.
And President Saleh knew where they were. On December 18, Saleh sent an elite army squadron - led by his son - to capture both men.
ABU BAKR AL QIRBI: And when the armed forces got to the tribal area- you know, there are tribal traditions about discussing the issue with the tribesmen. Unfortunately, as these negotiations were going on about handing the two operatives to the security forces, a helicopter came up, hovering over the area. The tribesmen got alerted, were anxious that they were going to be attacked, and there was exchange of fire. And this exchange of fire- in this exchange, the Yemeni security forces lost about 22 soldiers. And, unfortunately, the two who were supposed to be arrested managed to escape.
MARTIN SMITH: We drove to the scene of the shootout. The road descends from Yemen's eastern mountain range into the Arabian desert, the Ar-ruba' al Khali or "Empty Quarter," 250,000 square miles of sand. It's a dangerous area. In the past five years, more than 100 foreigners have been taken captive by tribesmen. Most have been exchanged for ransom, four have been killed. The government has recently introduced 2,000 new troops to beef up its presence here.
After three hours, we arrive in Marib and stop at the local gun market to see what's for sale. Practically every boy here over 14 here carries a Kalashnikov. Just a few years ago, anyone with enough cash could buy anything from a 50-caliber machine gun to a used Russian tank.
Next we go to meet the elders of the Abida tribe. We show up just in time for the daily qat chew, or in Arabic, "maquil." Every afternoon, Yemenis gather to stuff their cheeks with the leaves and stems of this plant, relax and talk.
Chewing qat, which is a stimulant, generally makes you more talkative, but when I ask the village Sheik about al-Harethi and al-Ahdal, he denies knowing anything.
SHEIK: [subtitles] We don't have al Qaeda in this region, especially in Marib. It doesn't exist. And we don't know anything about al Qaeda except from the media.
1st MAN ON ROAD: [subtitles] These are the houses the government thought al-Ahdal was hiding in.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] The one on the right. And al-Ahdal lived there?
2nd MAN ON ROAD: They believed that he used to live in the compound there.
MARTIN SMITH: Well let's walk over there. Let's walk. Can we walk over there?
[voice-over] When I ask to go closer to the houses, my government minders conspire to keep us away. They say it's unsafe.
[on camera] Can I talk to one of the farmers?
1st MINDER: [subtitles] Why don't you tell him, Ahmed? There's no one who wants to talk.
2nd MINDER: [subtitles] What? So that he can interrogate them for an hour?
MARTIN SMITH: Like this young man. Was he here ?
2nd MINDER: No.
MARTIN SMITH: Can we ask him?
2nd MINDER: No.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Reportedly, six villagers were killed in the shootout, but al-Harethi and al-Ahdal were not handed over. This was the situation when I spoke to Minister al Qirbi in October of 2002.
[on camera] Al-Harethi and al-Ahdal- they're still protected by a tribal elder. Why can't you arrest them? Why can't you take care of that situation?
ABU BAKR AL QIRBI: Well, I think the security forces are tracing them. One doesn't want to go just and attack an area without being absolutely sure that they are there because this is going to maybe cause a lot of suffering to the innocent people, and we may lose also the sympathy and the support of these people.
MARTIN SMITH: We're talking eight, nine months, ten months that these guys have eluded your capture.
ABU BAKR AL QIRBI: It is not an inability of catching them, it's an inability to locate them. And this is where we need the sophisticated equipment from the Americans, in order to be able to trace them and locate them. And this is what they are helping us with now.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] One day after that interview, al Qaeda struck again. This time it was a French oil tanker just off Yemen's coast. It raised the stakes all the more on finding al-Harethi.
So the Americans struck a deal with President Saleh. The United States would be allowed to track al-Harethi in Yemen and kill him. However, so as not to politically compromise Saleh, the Americans agreed that their operation would have to be a secret.
On November 4th, with the approval of President Bush, an unmanned CIA aircraft fired a missile at a car traveling near Marib. The Yemenis said that al-Harethi and five other men were killed by a bomb that exploded by accident in their trunk. When a leak from the Pentagon blew his cover, President Saleh was angry.
Meanwhile, the hunt for al Qaeda goes on. Al-Ahdal is still free. The U.S. and Yemen are also interested in this man.
ABU HAMZA: It's basically, you pick on us, and we retaliate back.
MARTIN SMITH: The radical London cleric, Sheikh Abu Hamza, is wanted in the U.S. for questioning. Yemen wants to extradite him for his role in a 1998 kidnapping that led to the killing of four Western tourists.
[on camera] Abu Hamza, is a terrorist, in your opinion?
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI, Former Prime Minister, Yemen: I would not say he's acting- committing acts of terrorism, but he is a promoter, a provocative terrorist. And to laymen, to uneducated people, he is to me equal to those who commit the acts of terrorism.
MARTIN SMITH: Like bin Laden?
ABDUL KARIM AL-ERYANI: Like bin Laden. OK.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] But Abu Hamza says he is not a terrorist.
SHEIKH ABU HAMZA AL MASRI, Finsbury Park Mosque: Well, in a sense, it depends how you define terrorism, you see. I we've been ordered in the Koran to terrorize tyrants, to terrorize even policy makers, to terrorize those who are abusing earth and abusing the people of earth. That's an order in the Koran.
MARTIN SMITH: In Yemen, the call of men like Abu Hamza and al Qaeda continues to resonate. And the more I spoke to people here, the more I realized that al Qaeda's supporters were everywhere.
In Sana'a we dropped into an Internet cafe. Right away found young men surfing jihadi Web sites. When we asked where we could find al Qaeda sympathizers, we were directed to Taiz. Taiz is a town in central Yemen, where many of the 109 men currently detained by the Yemeni government are from.
I asked some young boys if they recognized any of the men.
[on camera] They recognize this man's face? He was arrested on the 16th of October. He was arrested in November 2001.
AHMED AL YEMENI: He used to be a teacher. He used to work in the city down- down the road.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] We went off to meet one man who was recently released. Karim al-Odahi heads a family that has lost all its men. Three of them were living in Afghanistan when the U.S. air strikes began.
[on camera] I don't have all the names straight. Pardon me. But Mohammed was arrested. Riyadh was arrested. Riyadh's brother was arrested.
AHMED AL YEMENI: Mahmud.
MARTIN SMITH: Mahmud. And now there's two others that you're telling me were arrested before.
[voice-over] Karim's brother and a brother-in-law, one of bin Laden's bodyguards, were arrested in Pakistan after leaving Afghanistan. They are now in Guantanamo Bay. Another brother-in-law is still missing. His daughter, Hamas, is sitting here on the right.
[on camera] Can you tell me the story of what happened with her father?
KARIM AL-ODAHI: [through interpreter] No one knows anything about him. His wife came back, and we only found out much later. His name has been placed on the martyrs' list.
MARTIN SMITH: How did you feel on September 11th of 2001 when you heard the news?
KARIM AL-ODAHI: [through interpreter] We were very, very happy. It was a feeling from inside, like victory, as if I had done it myself. And then the news came that it was Sheikh Usama. And they showed his picture and his oath. It gave us happiness. He eased a little of our great suffering.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Rahma Hugira is an activist and advocate for Yemen's detained al Qaeda suspects. Veiled and posing as a family member, she has visited seven of them in jail. She writes articles and speaks out on their behalf.
RAHMA HUGIRA, Journalist & Activist, Yemen: [through interpreter] What we all see in Usama bin Laden is the man who was able to take our revenge, to wipe our tears that have been falling for a long time for our brethren in Palestine and Iraq. Through him, divine justice was achieved when America was shaken on September 11th. I see it as divine justice.
MARTIN SMITH: After 9/11, Rahma says she became more strict about wearing the veil, and says she now believes in al Qaeda.
RAHMA HUGIRA: [through interpreter] I didn't used to think that I could support violence. When I saw the World Trade Center and the Pentagon burn, I cried. I fainted with joy. And I prayed that God would help whoever did this operation. I may support al Qaeda financially. I may support them with whatever I can. And if I have nothing to offer them, my last resort is to raise twoor three children, maybe mine, to become Sheikh Usama bin Laden.
MARTIN SMITH: [on camera] What do you think when you see and hear Usama bin Laden speak? In English, if you can.
RAHMA HUGIRA: In general, I love him. Too much. And also my son love him.
MARTIN SMITH: How old is your son?
RAHMA HUGIRA: Seven years old. He wants to become like Usama bin Laden. He wants to kill the Israel and kill any Americans support the Israeli. We didn't- we hated the war. But if America- there are Americans people want to live in peace, maybe also I want to live in peace.
MARTIN SMITH: And if they don't?
RAHMA HUGIRA: I must revenge. Revenge.
MARTIN SMITH: If things don't change, would you be willing to join al Qaeda?
RAHMA HUGIRA: Yes.
MARTIN SMITH: [voice-over] Back while we were in Islamabad, Ahmad Zaidan, al Jazeera's bureau chief, showed us a tape of bin Laden and told us then that he believed he was still alive. Just last week, an audiotape was delivered to Zaidan's office. In the audiotape, bin Laden applauds a host of recent attacks.
Whether the tape is real or not, our journey has told us that al Qaeda and the broader movement that bin Laden has inspired is still very much alive.
IN SEARCH OF AL QAEDA
WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY
CO-PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
PHOTOGRAPHY AND FIELD PRODUCER
ADDITIONAL CAMERA AND REPORTING
Hayat Ullah Khan
Askold Buk and Miranda Hentoff
Michael H. Amundson
AP Wide World Photos
Reuters Pictures Archive
+ FOR FRONTLINE
ON-AIR PROMOTION PRODUCER
Michael H. Amundson
POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISORS
POST PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
Erin Martin Kane
FOUNDATION GRANT MANAGER
WEBSITE ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS
WEBSITE COORDINATING PRODUCER
WEBSITE MANAGING EDITOR
SENIOR PRODUCER SPECIAL PROJECTS
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER SPECIAL PROJECTS
Louis Wiley Jr.
A FRONTLINE co-production with Rain Media
WGBH EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
ANNOUNCER: This report continues on our Web site, where you'll find a Web-exclusive collection from the video taken inside the forbidden tribal areas of Pakistan, a detailed journey of FRONTLINE's team in search of al Qaeda, with their daily dispatches from the field, maps, dozens of photos, key interviews and more, an interview with Middle East expert Mary Anne Weaver on militant Islam and Pakistan, and find out on the Web site if this program will air again on your PBS station at PBS on line, pbs.org, or write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to this address [Dear FRONTLINE, 125 Western Ave., Boston, MA 02134]
Next time on FRONTLINE: Critics agree it's all about cool.
EXPERT: Teens run today's economy.
ANNOUNCER: Buying it and selling it.
EXPERT: The system closely studies kids to figure out what will push their buttons, and it blares it back at them relentlessly.
ANNOUNCER: But what is this assault doing to America's teens?
EXPERT: Advertising always telling them they're creeps, they're losers unless they're cool.
ANNOUNCER: The Merchants of Cool next time on FRONTLINE.
To obtain a VHS copy of In Search of Al Qaeda, call PBS Home Video at 1-800-PLAY-PBS. [$29.98 plus s&h]
FRONTLINE is made possible by the annual financial support of PBS viewers like you. Thank you.