THE suspicions surrounding the crash of TWA Flight 800 in New York have led to debates on the nature of terrorism. They focus mainly on terrorism linked to Islamic fundamentalism because, unlike the IRA, the Basque ETA, or the US militia fringe, Moslem fundamentalists aspire to a global reach.They blew up an American airliner at Lockerbie, bombed the World Trade Center and, a couple of weeks ago, hit the US military complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
So is there really a coherent terrorist plan against American interests around the world? And who could organize the master plan? Last week, the London-based Arabic daily, A-Sharq Al-Awsat, published an interview with the leader of Egypt's Moslem Brotherhood movement, Mustafa Mashur. He said that the brotherhood has no international leadership controlling all its activities. At most, he said, local leaders convene from time to time to exchange views and to preserve relationships.
Mashur went on to say that, after the Moslem Brotherhood leadership was expelled from Egypt, its birthplace, during Nasser's regime in the 1950s, it became scattered across the Arab world and beyond. It set about accommodating itself to native circumstances, operating in each country according to local possibilities. He said many intelligence services had tried to pinpoint a world leadership, but to no avail.
Yet Cairo remains one of the brotherhood's most important centers. Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat maintains contact with this movement through its Cairo center. (But a highly placed PA source said the brotherhood's real headquarters is in Germany). Mashur's statement that the brotherhood has no worldwide super-command is probably true. At the same time it cannot be ignored that those who carried out the Dhahran attack do not lean on Iran, as often stated, but look within Saudi Arabia, to the Mujahideen, the former American-backed fighters of the Afghanistan war.
They were originally recruited by the heads of the "Afghan Arabs" who viewed the war in Afghanistan as merely the opening of a general war against the Christian world (Russian or Western), or the "Crusaders" as the Moslem fundamentalists prefer to call them, to demonstrate the historical continuity of their struggle.Chief among them was the fundamentalist terrorist Usama Bin Ladun. Bin Ladun was last reported somewhere in Pakistan after being expelled from Sudan, where he found shelter after the Afghan war.
A sure sign that the Dhahran attack points to these formerly Saudi-funded Mujahideen can be deduced from the tensions that quickly developed between the FBI investigators sent in to Dhahran and the Saudi authorities. The Americans got a clear message that the Saudis were concealing key information from them.
The Mujahideen believe they toppled the Soviet Union and that they can do the same to the equally "Crusader" US. Bin Ladun was most probably connected with the World Trade Center attack in 1993 those convicted by the American courts were his colleagues from the time of the Afghan war.
One of those Mujahideen, the notorious Ramzi Yousef, a Pakistani with Palestinian roots, revealed after his capture in Pakistan that his motives were mostly Palestinian nationalist. He wanted the US to pay for the support it extends to Israel.
Whatever the motives, or declared excuses, there is now a new kind of global terrorism, which ironically the US and Saudis helped fund, train and motivate in Afghanistan, and which is now coming back to haunt its former paymasters. Today it is privately financed by shadowy millionaires much like the villains in the James Bond stories.
(c) Jerusalem Post 1996