Chapter 1: Bin Laden’s starting point
Two anti-terrorist experts, writing in 2007, summarised the history of al Qaeda and in doing so took a long-term perspective. They divided the financial development of al Qaeda into four periods. There was, firstly the Pakistan phase, then secondly Bin Laden’s time in the Sudan in alliance with al Turabi, thirdly Bin Laden’s stay in Afghanistan. The fourth and final phase was marked by self-financing autonomous cells, gaining revenue by petty criminality. The second period, that of Bin Laden’s and al Qaeda’s pre 9/11 period in Africa, is a significant one. During the period December 1991 to 1996 Sudan was host to al Qaeda. Giving sanctuary to terrorist organisations was not a new development for Sudan as it had given, or was still providing, safe havens to national and international terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Abu Nidal, Hamas (and after 2011 it increased its presence in Sudan), the Lord’s Resistance Army, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Eritrean Islamic Jihad, Gama ‘at al Islamiyah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. However, in giving sanctuary to Bin Laden and al Qaeda Sudan ensured that al Qaeda was able to operate and extend its influence into other areas of Africa. The headquarters of al Qaeda was based in Khartoum, in several scattered buildings, and Bin Laden himself had moved to Sudan by late 1991. There he was fully and steadily supported by the governing regime, particularly by the spiritual leader of Sudan, Dr Hassan al Turabi.