Today marks the 19th anniversary of the appalling act of cowardliness carried out by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda. Just shy of 3,000 people lost their lives and thousands more were injured when two planes crashed into the World Trade Centre, another into the Pentagon, and a fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. On May 3, 2011, bin Laden was shot and killed by US Navy SEALS inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, following a covert CIA operation code-named Operation Neptune Spear, under the direct orders of former US President Barack Obama.
During the raid, the CIA seized thousands of documents, including bin Laden’s personal diary, which offered an insight into the mind of a man who remained on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for over a decade.
Declassified six years later, the files cast new light on someone who was thought to be a strategic thinker, shaping and influencing events from his hideout.
In the tranche of documents, bin Laden shows no global vision or strategy.
The dominant theme of the secret journal is its dissection of the revolts of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, with bin Laden offering little more than commentary.
The diary, written in Arabic, also contains exchanges and questions between bin Laden and one of his sons, who asks him when he thought about becoming a “jihad” for the first time in his life.
He said it first crossed his mind when he was in school.
It reads: ”I was influenced by the general environment [in the country] as any individual at home and at school and in the street.
“I was religious by nature. I always prayed since I was young.”
He also described his first encounter with the West during a visit to Britain in 1969, when he was 13 years old.
READ MORE: Joe Biden sparked fury after ‘forgetting when 9/11 happened’ during live interview
Leon Panetta, the former director of the CIA claimed two days after the raid that the al-Qaeda leader “believed his network was strong enough [that] he’d get a heads-up” before a US strike.
He added that this confidence was so strong that it may also be the reason the compound was so lightly guarded and explain the lack of weapons found on him.
The disclosure that bin Laden was carrying €500 in cash raised obvious questions about whether the al-Qaeda chief was intending to flee to Europe, as US dollars would have been the obvious choice of currency to carry if he intended to change it in countries neighbouring Pakistan.
It also helped justify the CIA’s nervousness about not informing the Pakistani authorities for fear that bin Laden would be tipped off.