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March 31, 2003

(AP Photo)
Iraq War Sparks Calls for Jihad
Second Gulf War Raises Fears That More Terrorists Like Osama bin Laden Will Surface

The Associated Press

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Calls for a holy war against the United States because of its attack on Iraq have now led to warnings of "100 bin Ladens" an ominous prospect for Americans who have been living with the fear of more terror attacks since Sept. 11, 2001.

Indeed, it was Osama bin Laden's anger over the United States keeping troops in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War that spurred him to orchestrate the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. "Expel the heretics from the Arabian Peninsula," bin Laden declared in 1996.

In the past few days, calls for jihad have been issued across the Middle East.

In Egypt, president Hosni Mubarak warned on Monday that if the U.S.-led coalition's war against Iraq drags on, Islamic militancy will rise across the world.

"If there is one bin Laden now, there will be 100 bin Ladens afterward," Mubarak said in a speech to army commanders.

In Pakistan, the Taliban's elusive leader Mullah Mohammed Omar issued a call for a holy war against U.S. troops and Afghans who work with them. Omar's decree, publicized on black-and-white posters plastered across eastern Afghanistan, is signed by 600 Islamic clerics reminding their followers to wage jihad "to rise up against the aggressor."

Iraq's government recently gave $34,000 a fortune by Iraqi standards to the family of an Iraqi army officer who posed as a cabbie, waved to troops at a roadblock near Najaf and then blew up his vehicle, killing four U.S. soldiers.

Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Saturday's attack was "just the beginning," and raised the specter of terrorism on U.S. or British soil.

"We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land and we will follow the enemy into its land," he said.

The calls for jihad a religious duty for Muslims that includes fighting to defend Islam, striving to be a better person, giving money to the poor and fulfilling obligations toward the faith do not surprise counterterrorism experts and scholars. They worry that such calls could incite isolated terrorist attacks on America, but say it's no time to panic.

"The number of people in the world who hate Americans has not increased in the last three months," said Michael Swetnam, counterterrorism specialist at the Potomac Institute of Policy Studies in Arlington, Va. "I would be absolutely astonished to see waves of suicide bombers landing on our shores and things blowing up. We're in no more trouble than we were when we went into Afghanistan."

Swetnam agrees that the war could generate more hatred against America if it lasts a long time and television repeatedly shows innocent civilians being killed in Baghdad. "But it really hasn't happened yet," Swetnam said.

The day after the war began, a small band of military scholars in bin Laden's native Saudi Arabia, urged jihad. And some Saudis are waging personal, low-key jihads.

May al-Jaser, a biology professor educated at U.S. and British universities, said she's telling women at a U.S. coffee shop in Riyadh that the money they're spending on java will go "to strike our children."

Still, the recent calls for holy war against America haven't rattled Dan Reiter, a political scientist at Emory University.

"We don't have any evidence yet that we should panic at the likelihood of a quantum increase in terrorist incidents," Reiter said. "We're not at red alert yet."

American counterterrorism officials say they have noted an increase in recruiting by militant Islamic groups overseas since the onset of war. But they say they have no way to quantify it or assess how serious it is.

Officials also say the governments in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia all friendly to the United States to some degree appear stable despite protests in some of those countries.

The religious rhetoric, however, could incite acts of terrorism by individuals in the United States, said Mark Broxmeyer, national chairman of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, based in Washington.

"It's a signal for them to activate," Broxmeyer said. "There still is a deep concern about the active (terrorist) cells in the United States.

"I'm worried about lone-wolf assassins people who get emotionally drawn in and go out and start shooting people at a mall or drop a knapsack with explosives in Grand Central Station."

photo credit and caption:
An angry protester wields a toy rifle as others carry a poster of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden during a protest rally of more than 100,000 people to condemn the U.S. -led war against Iraq, in Peshawar, in northwestern Pakistan, March 30, 2003. Anti-war protests have been staged by angry Pakistanis daily since the war started weeks ago. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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