Former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden issued a letter telling Muslims to kill Americans, including civilians, just three years before the 9/11 attacks.
The terrorist issued the fatwa, a legal ruling on a point of Islamic law, on February 23, 1998 after merging two groups, Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad under Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The document, titled “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” was signed by five people, including Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, in what would become the Global Islamic Front.
The message to Muslims would be used as evidence to link bin Laden and al-Qaeda to the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the 9/11 commission.
The fatwa said: “The decision to kill Americans and their allies – civilians and military – is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country where it is possible to do so, in order to free al-Aqsa. . Mosque and the Holy Mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and for their armies to come out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.
“This is in accordance with the words of Allah Almighty,” he said, adding, “Fight the pagans all together as they fight you all together…fight them until there be no more tumult or oppression, and let justice and faith prevail. in Allah.”
Bin Laden would continue to pose threats throughout 1998 with another statement titled “Islam’s Nuclear Bomb” in which he told Muslims “to prepare as much force as possible to terrorize the enemies of God”.
Months after the message, al-Qaeda would launch an attack on US embassies in Kenya when two trucks exploded, killing 224 people and leading bin Laden to be added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The 1998 fatwa was actually the second to be issued by Bin Laden.
He first made a fatwa titled “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places” in 1996.
Although the message was aimed at Americans, the document first appeared in a London-based Arabic newspaper called Al-Quds Al-Arabi.
The document had been faxed to a number of international Arab newspapers, but the focus would have been on England.
In 2004, bin Laden would claim personal responsibility for the attacks in an 18-minute tape broadcast on Al-Jazeera.
Bin Laden claimed to have attacked the World Trade Center after seeing towers in Lebanon destroyed by Israel in 1982.
He said: “I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children lying everywhere.
“Destroyed houses with their occupants and demolished skyscrapers on their inhabitants, rockets raining down on our house without mercy.”
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Following the horrific acts of 9/11, bin Laden went into hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to reports.
Over the next few years there were several rumors of his death, some citing kidney failure and lung complications – but he was still alive for several years.
It wasn’t until 2011 that US forces stormed a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, when bin Laden was found and killed in a firefight.
DNA evidence was taken before he was buried at sea.