The late 1990s saw a number of attacks against American military and governmental offices, most notably the US Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998. On September 11, 2001, however, the scale of this conflict changed dramatically. The kidnapping of four commercial airliners on that sunny Tuesday morning led to the deaths of some 3,000 people. As in 1998, the terrorist group responsible for this devastating campaign was Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda, or "The Base," a loose network of extremists many of whom are willing to die for their cause, the promotion of a militant form of Islam and the destruction of the West. In Al Qaeda, Jane Corbin the award-winning senior BBC correspondent for Panorama —the British equivalent of 60 Minutes — crosses four continents in search of bin Laden’s terror network. The result of four years research, reporting and travel throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and America, she has conducted hundreds of interviews with key eyewitnesses, investigators, and intelligence officers around the world.
Tracing al-Qaeda’s roots back to the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Corbin picks up the complicated trail that led to the collapse of the Twin Towers and beyond. Exploring the tradecraft of "The Base," she shows how they used the training drilled into them in the Afghan terror camps to stay below the radar of the world’s most sophisticated intelligence agency. Here too are descriptions of the parallel deadly plots to kill hundreds in Europe, only uncovered in their final stages.
Finally, as President Bush’s "war on terror" in Afghanistan poses more questions than it answers, Corbin examines the West’s response to the threat of al-Qaeda and declares it a failure.
Further attacks are not only feared but also expected. The Base continues to grow. Bin Laden, the most hunted man since Adolf Hitler and yet still at large, has a growing if silent constituency now, not only among young and dispossessed Muslims but among a wider audience in our cities and our suburbs. "If they kill him, they create a thousand bin Ladens," his mentor, a Sudanese cleric, assured the author in 1998. That prediction has never seemed more likely to come true.