Osama bin Laden had planned a second attack against the United States shortly after the deadly September 11, 2001 atrocity - also known as the 9/11 attacks - that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people.
According to CBS News, papers obtained and declassified by US Navy SEALs after bin Laden's assassination in 2011 have recently revealed how the then al-Qaeda leader encouraged the use of private jets, rather than passenger plans, to carry out a follow-up attack after 9/11. The papers also revealed how bin Laden encouraged his followers to cut 12 metres from US train tracks to cause a spectacular derailment he hoped would kill hundreds.
Author and Islamic scholar Nelly Lahoud, who has spent much of her career researching al-Qaeda, examined thousands of pages of Osama bin Laden's personal letters and notes confiscated 11 years ago by a team of two dozen Navy SEALs sent to Pakistan to capture or kill the terrorist. Speaking during a 60-minute interview aired on CBS, Ms Lahoud explained how al-Qaeda did not anticipate that the US would go to war following the 9/11 attacks.
However, as the war raged on in Afghanistan, Ms Lahoud said that bin Laden's letter showed that the terrorist was surprised by how Americans reacted to September 11 atrocity. According to the declassified papers, she said that bin Laden thought that the Americans would take to the streets and would just put pressure on their government to withdraw from the Muslim majority state.
"This was a huge miscalculation on Osama bin Laden's part," Ms Lahoud stated.
Speaking to the media outlet, Ms Lahoud informed that according to his personal letters to his group members, Osama bin Laden did not communicate with his al-Qaeda associates for three years as he was on the run. But in 2004, he reconnected with the terrorist group, offering members his new plan to attack the United States.
Bin Laden was “very eager” to replicate the 9/11 attacks but he was also mindful of the very difficult security conditions at airports. While reading a chilling letter from Osama bin Laden to the head of al-Qaeda's international terror unit, Ms Lahoud revealed that he proposed the idea of operating through a charter plane instead of a passenger one for the next attack on the country. The terrorist also wrote that if it is too difficult to attack using a plane, then they should target US railways.
Ms Lahoud said that bin Laden, who had a degree in civil engineering, explained exactly how to attack the United States. “He wanted to have 12 metres of steel rail removed so that, this way, the train could be derailed. And we find him, explaining the simple toolkit that they could use. You know, he said, ‘You're - you could use a compressor. You could use a smelting iron tool',” Ms Lahoud told CBS.
She, however, noted that fortunately, bin Laden was never able to execute his plan.
Moreover, Ms Lahoud said the declassified documents also revealed that in November 2002, when US intelligence officials were concerned that al-Qaeda was planning “spectacular attacks” that would result in “mass casualties”, bin Laden was hiding and “absolutely not” running the terrorist group.
The letters also revealed that the mastermind behind 9/11 planned an additional terror attack in 2010 targeting multiple crude oil tankers and major shipping routes in the Middle East and Africa. Ms Lahoud claimed that bin Laden suggested al-Qaeda operatives could integrate themselves into the port areas by posing as fishermen. He instructed his team on where to buy specific boats to evade radar and detailed how the vessels should be used to transport explosives. Ms Lahoud alleged that bin Laden “really wanted to do to the American economy”.
Now, according to US intelligence agencies, most al-Qaeda terrorist activity is being carried out by smaller al-Qaeda offshoots. Bin Laden's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, now heads al-Qaeda. According to CBS, this month, he appeared in a new video denouncing the enemies of Islam.