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May 09, 2012

Captured Bin-Laden Letters Claim "Moderate" Fatah Offered Tribute to Group Sympathizing with Al-Qaeda -[corrected]

letters from abbottabad.JPG

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post identified the Palestinian group communicating with al-Qaeda as part of al-Qaeda. While the group clearly sympathizes with al-Qaeda and has communicated with its leadership, there is no evidence that it is part of al-Qaeda.

On May 3, 2012, West Point's Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) released translations of Osama Bin Laden's correspondence with other al-Qaeda figures that was seized in the raid that killed him. The translations reveal that an organization communicating and sympathizing with al-Qaeda had received an offer of tribute from Fatah, the Palestinian party governing the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which is widely depicted as moderate.

While David Gartenstein-Ross cautions that "this does not actually demonstrate tribute money being offered to 'al-Qaeda,' " it nevertheless should raise some concern because the Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in aid from Western countries. The United States recently approved several hundred million dollars more in assistance.

The full translated passage in the CTC document reads:

The Fatah organization has also offered us funds purportedly to support jihad, but there is another reason, namely their fear of becoming the target of our swords. These funds would go directly towards the purchase and manufacture of weapons, and to support operations which we will conduct, God willing. ...

UPDATE: Two CAMERA commenters alerted us to the fact that there is not a clearly established link between al-Qaeda and the group that purportedly received the funding offer, a Palestinian terrorist group that has called itself the Organization of al-Qaeda in Palestine (among other names). The CTC commented as follows:

There is also a letter dated 2006 forwarded to a certain `Abd al-Hamid. The actual letter was addressed to `Atiyya, consisting of legal questions from the group called Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam) based in Gaza. The gist of the letter makes it known that the group is in need of financial assistance “to support jihad,�? and the questions largely pertain to the permissibility of accepting financial assistance from other militant Palestinian groups that are not purely fighting to establish God’s Law in the eyes of Jaysh al-Islam (e.g., groups that are nationalists or supported by Iran). The significance of the letter pertains to `Atiyya’s legal knowledge, but it does not point to a firm relationship between al-Qa`ida and Jaysh al-Islam. Atiyya comes across as cordial but distant. He responded strictly to the questions posed but refrained from giving any strategic advice. It is possible that Jaysh al-Islam was “testing the water�? to see whether al-Qa`ida would lend them financial support, not least because Hamas was fighting against them.

Many news organizations reported on the trove of letters, but a Nexis search turned up only three major news organizations, the Daily Telegraph, the Christian Science Monitor and the Calgary Herald, that reported on the Fatah tribute offer.

Also of interest, British columnist Robert Fisk, American journalist Seymour Hersh (sp) and Canadian columnists Gwynne Dyer and Eric Margolis were apparently favored by Bin Laden. Fisk, who writes for the Independent and Dyer are frequent detractors of Israel.

Posted by SS at May 9, 2012 05:26 PM


Part of the reason much of media ignored the part about Fatah offering to aid Jaysh al-Islam may be that this information was in the underlying documents but not in the West Point summary report (both are at and the relevant email is more conveniently viewed at

Often, journalists will only report on the summary report and not go through the underlying documents.

Posted by: Michael Segal at May 10, 2012 12:53 PM

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