The Secret History of al-Qa‘ida
About the Book
Over the last ten years, journalist and al-Qa‘ida expert Abdel Bari Atwan has cultivated uniquely well-placed sources and amassed a wealth of information about al-Qa‘ida’s origins, masterminds and plans for the future.
Atwan reveals how al-Qa‘ida’s radical departure from the classic terrorist/guerrilla blueprint has enabled it to outpace less adaptable efforts to neutralize it. The fanaticism of its fighters, and their willingness to kill and be killed, are matched by the leadership’s opportunistic recruitment strategies and sophisticated understanding of psychology, media and new technology – including the use of the Internet for training, support and communications.
Atwan shows that far from committing acts of violence randomly and indiscriminately, al-Qa‘ida attacks targets according to a decisive design underwritten by unwavering patience. He also argues that events in Iraq and Saudi Arabia are watershed moments in the group’s evolution that are making it more dangerous by the day, as it refines and appropriates the concept of jihad and makes the suicide bomber a permanent feature of a global holy war.
While Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain al-Qa‘ida’s figureheads, Atwan identifies a new kind of leader made possible by its horizontal chain of command, epitomised by the brutal Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the bombers of London, Madrid, Amman, Bali and elsewhere.
About the Author
Abdel Bari Atwan is a Palestinian writer and journalist. The former editor-in-chief of the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi for twenty-five years, he now edits the Rai al-Youm news website – the Arab world’s first Huffington Post-style outlet. He is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including the Guardian and Scottish Herald, and is a frequent guest on radio and television, including regular stints on the BBC’s Dateline London.
Atwan interviewed Osama bin Laden twice in the late 1990s and has cultivated uniquely well-placed sources from within the various branches of al-Qa‘ida and other jihadi groups, including IS, over the last twenty years. His books include Islamic State: The Digital Caliphate, The Secret History of al-Qa'ida and After bin Laden: al-Qa'ida, the Next Generation, as well as a memoir, A Country of Words: A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page.
‘Scholarly, analytical, objective, it is also intensely readable, being by far the best book on the subject.’ Tony Benn
‘This is a must-read book for anyone interested in understanding our increasingly scary world.’ Gavin Esler
'What shines out ... is a profound desire to investigate and reveal the truth. Intelligent and informative.' Jason Burke, Guardian
'Deeply researched, well reported and full of interesting and surprising analyses. It demands to be read.' Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc