News / Asia

    Meeting the World's Most Wanted Man

    An image from FBI's Most Wanted website shows the status of Osama bin Laden as 'deceased', May 2, 2011
    An image from FBI's Most Wanted website shows the status of Osama bin Laden as 'deceased', May 2, 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio

    In May 1998, Islamabad-based reporter Nafees Takar received a phone call from a man claiming to be linked to a Pakistani militant group.

    The man asked to meet Takar, a meeting that set off a chain of events that led to an extraordinary press conference in the mountains of Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden just months before the deadly attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

    Just three years after that, al-Qaida would stage the September 11th attacks in the United States, killing more than 3,000 people.

    All Takar was told was he would be taken to cover a major event.

    He agreed and joined a group of other journalists who boarded a plane in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, headed to the city of Peshawar. There, they took another flight to Bannu, a small city near the Afghan border.

    Meeting the World's Most Wanted Man
    Meeting the World's Most Wanted Man

    The escorted group then boarded a coach to rugged North Waziristan. They were driven further past the capital, Miran Shah, and then, at nightfall, took a perilous, illegal walk across the border into Afghanistan.

    Takar says he was never told exactly who he would be meeting, but that during his trip, he and his fellow journalists picked up clues.

    Nafees Takar, who is now the head of VOA’s Deewa Radio which broadcasts to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border regions, says the group finally arrived in southern Khost, Afghanistan, where they waited two days to meet the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

    "He was calm, he was humble, he was shy. When he was talking to you, maybe he was shyer, maybe because of Islamic teaching, he was never looking into your eyes.  We didn't think at that time that he was very much enthusiatic or he was very emotional. I think those things were not visible on his face, at least."

    Listen to the interview with Nafees Takar


    He did not come across as the stereotypical hardline Islamic extremist?

    "No, he didn't give this impression. He was looking like an ordinary man. And we didn't think he had such a radical mind behind his calm face."

    Describe where you were exactly and what it was like.

    "You know, when we went to Khost to his bases, we reached the compound late night. And when dawn came, we saw that we are in the middle of the mujahideen, the holy warriors. There were guys marching in the nearby towns, wearing military uniforms. And then the second day, we knew that there were training camps named after the companions of the Prophet of Islam. And most of the guys who were getting training, they were from Pakistan, from the southern districts of Punjab and some were from Pakistan-administered Kashmir."

    Image of Nafees Takar's article published in The Nation


    "There were three camps there and all of them belonged to Pakistanis. This is the place where we stayed at night and where we waited for at least two days. And then we were taken to another camp, maybe 15 miles away. And there we met Osama bin Laden. That camp was the training camps for Arabs. There were dummy men, there were military exercises, obstacle [courses]. It was surrounded by mountains and the buildings in both places, these were run-down buildings, made of stones and mud, they were very simple houses, rooms and halls, and it didn't give me the impression that these were modern complexes."

    It sounds like you were in an al-Qaida training camp.

    "At that time, they were not known as al-Qaida, but later after the 1998 East Africa and the 9/11 attacks, I realized that we were with al-Qaida."

    At the time in May 1998, had he actually officially told the world that he was leading this organization called al-Qaida?

    "He never mentioned that he is the leader of al-Qaida. Only in that press conference, he said that the name that he has given to his affiliates and his group was the 'Islamic International Front,' this is the term he used. I don't know that he himself ever called his organization al-Qaida."

    Talk about the message that this seemingly calm, polite man delivered to the group of journalists.


    "You know when the formal conversation finished, they took us out of the hall and we sat on the ground, they served us tea and some dry fruit. And at that time, Osama bin Laden was watching us. He was looking to each and every one of us. And Ayman al-Zawahiri [bin Laden's second-in-command] was given a chance to talk about their life, to talk about how they spend their days. But during that press conference, he said that Americans know who killed their troops in Somalia and that Americans know who killed their troops in Saudi Arabia. he was referring to the 1996 attack on U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. At that time, he didn't say that he killed them, but in a way he was referring to himself that he was probably behind those two attacks."

    "One other thing, when he [Osama bin Laden] was mentioning that he was going to start jihad against America and Israel and all the rulers of the Arab world, we thought that he is probably bragging. It was in 1998 and then, again, in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, I got this impression that I had met the most dangerous man in the world."

    Nafees Takar's material from that press conference was published in the Pakistani English newspaper The Nation and also shared with Italian and German news agencies.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.