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Behind the Terror
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The continuing search for answers BEHIND THE TERROR

by Thomas G. Whittle & Linda Amato

n route to work at the American embassy in Beirut on March 16, 1984, Bill Buckley encountered what could be anyone’s most terrifying nightmare.

Smashed on the back of his head with a rock-filled briefcase, he was knocked senseless. Powerful hands stuffed him into a car. After a short ride, his abductors forced him into a darkened basement, chained him to a wall, and pulled a hood over his head.

The worst was yet to come.

Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri
Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (left) and terrorists identified following the attack of September 11, 2001.

Over the next 444 days, Buckley, the CIA’s Beirut station chief, was tortured by psychiatrist Aziz al-Abub, a member of the Iranian-based terrorist group, Hezbollah. They were 444 days in a living hell, whose devil had substance enough in the form of al-Abub, trained to inflict pain and suffering by drugs and other means. Each day, the psychiatrist would visit to inject or otherwise administer substances to the bound and helpless Buckley.

As the torment proceeded, a series of three videotapes of al-Abub’s victim were released, finding their way to the CIA. The systematic destruction of a once-proud and capable man was all too visible on the tapes. By the time the third video arrived at CIA headquarters, 224 days after the kidnaping, al-Abub had reduced Buckley to a gibbering, drooling mess, screaming in terror as his eyes rolled and his naked body shook.1

The videos communicated far more than any words ever could, moving then CIA Director William Casey to say, “I just want that motherf – – - doctor. Dead or alive. I want him.”2

Today, Aziz al-Abub, also known as Ibrahim al-Nadhir, is reportedly alive and well, working in Iran in that country’s prison system.3 Hezbollah, of course, has been one of the Middle East’s most active terrorist organizations, drawing even more intense international scrutiny in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The agony and ultimate death of Bill Buckley demonstrated that by 1984, terror masters were in command of psychiatric drugging and conditioning techniques capable of thoroughly altering a person’s behavior or destroying his sanity.

ByBy 1984, terror masters were in command of psychiatric drugging and conditioning techniques capable of thoroughly altering a person’s behavior or destroying his sanity.
The degree to which such methods have permeated and shaped today’s terrorist networks, however, is only now beginning to come to light—along with the extent to which political and ethnic agendas have motivated “religious” conflicts.

“What the Brain Is to the Body”

hile the international spotlight since September 11 has focused on Osama bin Laden, key information that helps to explain how terrorists are created—including facts to clarify their conversion into violent, seemingly inhuman killers—has remained obscure.

In this regard, an examination of the background of a particular al-Qaeda principal proves enlightening. News accounts have depicted surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri as bin Laden’s right-hand man and personal doctor. The facts, however, reveal him to be more.

Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden
Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (above, right), perhaps the world’s deadliest terrorist since the 1970s, is to Osama bin Laden “what the brain is to the body,” according to one terrorism expert. A master of psycho-political terror and bin Laden’s closest associate, al-Zawahiri claimed credit for the September 11 attacks.

Al-Zawahiri’s terrorist history is, as even a cursory review will determine, far more formidable and extensive than bin Laden’s. According to Dia’a Rashwan, an Egyptian expert on militants, al-Zawahiri’s name “has come up in nearly every case involving Muslim extremists since the 1970s.”4

Attorney Montasser El-Zayat, a former friend of al-Zawahiri’s who represented him in Egyptian courts, said that al-Zawahiri is to bin Laden “what the brain is to the body.”5 According to El-Zayat, al-Zawahiri “was able to reshape bin Laden’s thinking and mentality and turn him from merely a supporter of the Afghan Jihad [against the Soviet Union] to a believer in and export[er] of the Jihad’s ideology.”6

It was al-Zawahiri, trained in Cairo, who convinced bin Laden to establish al-Qaeda7 in 1988, thereby providing “The Base” for training, supply and operations of militants from Egypt and elsewhere.

Some consider him to be the mastermind of the September 11 assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—a belief bolstered in mid-April when Qatar’s Al-Jazeera (“The Peninsula”) television aired portions of a videotape in which al-Zawahiri claimed credit for the attacks, referring to them as “this great victory” and to the hijackers as “19 brothers.” On the tape, bin Laden sits beside the doctor, muttering to himself while caressing his beard.

The exact methods utilized by al-Zawahiri to influence bin Laden are as yet unknown, but more than one source has reported that the doctor is also a psychiatrist. That information, according to one of the sources interviewed by Freedom, came from “officials in the Egyptian government.” Thus, it is not surprising that bin Laden has been known to be taking psychiatric drugs (“anti-anxiety pills”).8


And it has always been al-Zawahiri, allegedly himself tortured in the early 1980s while in Egyptian custody after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, who has advocated that violence is purifying and ought to be utilized against Islam’s enemies.9 Foremost among these enemies, he said, were “Jews and Americans,” and he called for “stepping up the jihad action to harm the U.S. and Jewish interests.” This, he said, “creates a sense of resistance among the people, who consider the Jews and Americans a horrible symbol of arrogance and tyranny.”10

Over time, it is obvious that bin Laden came to share his doctor’s view.

Top Psychologist, Trainer Behind al-Qaeda Operations

n its investigation of the terrorist phenomenon, Freedom found the influence of psychiatrists, psychologists and their methods in terrorist groups to be strong and pervasive.

Issam al-Attar, for instance, is a psychologist and engineer who, like al-Zawahiri, was instrumental in driving Islamic groups to the radical edge. In Syria, his Muslim Brotherhood synonymized terror and assassination. Even after exile to Germany, al-Attar continued as “general guide” of the violent group.

Another example is that of Ali A. Mohamed, an Egyptian psychologist and army officer awaiting sentencing in New York after pleading guilty for his role in the American embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998, that killed 224 people and injured thousands more.

A top al-Qaeda motivational leader and trainer, Mohamed instructed recruits in how to build bombs, blow up buildings, communicate in code, masquerade as “normal” Americans, and (in his words) “create cell structures that could be used for operations.”

Kenya: American embassy bombing, 1998

Those he indoctrinated were responsible for some of al-Qaeda’s most notorious operations, including the 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

In between an estimated 58 trips from America to overseas destinations on various missions, he found time in the early 1990s and in 1995 to set up and to host fund-raising jaunts to the U.S. for Ayman al-Zawahiri, even though, then as now, the latter was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists.

During the 1995 tour, al-Zawahiri and Mohamed inspected possible U.S. targets. Money received from supporters during that trip funded the suicide bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, in November 1995,11 in which 17 died.

Inducing “Sheer Terror and Fright”

Ali A. Mohamed
Ali A. Mohamed, psychologist and top al-Qaeda motivational leader, trained those responsible for the 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, among other notorious al-Qaeda operations. Mohamed awaits sentencing in New York after pleading guilty in the American embassy bombings in Kenya (above right) and Tanzania in August 1998.

ohamed helped bin Laden move from Pakistan to Sudan in 1991, brought photographs of the U.S. embassy in Kenya to bin Laden in 1993 (which bin Laden used to pinpoint where the explosives-filled truck should be detonated—and where it ultimately was) and personally trained bin Laden’s bodyguards.

He oversaw security when bin Laden met in the Sudan with Imad Mughniyeh, head of security for Hezbollah and cohort of psychiatrist Aziz al-Abub, and when bin Laden and al-Qaeda moved to Afghanistan from the Sudan in 1996.

Even after his imprisonment in 1998, psychologist Mohamed’s legacy in al-Qaeda continued in the form of dozens of training manuals on subjects that included assassinations and bombings, compiled during an astounding double-agent career that included graduation from the elite U.S. Army Special Forces school for foreign officers in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while a captain in the Egyptian army.12

One confiscated manual of roughly 180 pages, entitled “Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants,” endorsed explosives as the “safest” weapon for terrorist use and noted, “explosives strike the enemy with sheer terror and fright.” The manual, possibly prepared by Mohamed, was found in the home of a fugitive linked to him.13


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