A letter by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s right-hand man, has been published by Asharq al-Awsat. Dated February 1998, the letter speaks of Americans as “the foreign investors” who “must be hit.” The term “investor” is part of a code in the letter, where everything is referred to as a “company” and an economic transaction. This sort of language is presumably something al-Qaeda learned from the CIA (“the Company”) during the period when the two were cooperating against the Soviets.
Al-Zawahiri complains that “The Upper Egyptian Company” has ceased its commerce, a reference to the decision of the jailed leadership of the Islamic Grouping (al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya) to give up armed struggle after the disastrous 1997 shooting of dozens of tourists at Luxor. The Gamaa is famed for being disproportionately drawn from Asyut and other areas of Upper Egypt. He says that since both “firms” (the Gamaa and his own al-Jihad al-Islami) are facing international monopoly capital (sharikat al-ihtikar ad-dawliyya), it is counterproductive to fight internally. At this point the commercial code seems to be more than just code, echoing Marxist ideas.
His correspondent seems to have been Egyptian; he expresses at the beginning of the letter his hope that they will meet again in “our country” (i.e. that the Islamists will overthrow Hosni Mubarak, which is the only way such a meeting could take place).
He says, however, that the Omar Brothers Company is open for business, referring to the Taliban/al-Qaeda. He thus seems to implicate Mulla Omar in al-Qaeda terrorism, the exact details of which are still murky. He also refers to Mulla Omar as “Amir al-Mu’minin,” or “Commander of the Believers,” a title of the Caliph.
Using the same sort of code, he refers to the joining of his al-Jihad al-Islami terrorist organization with al-Qaeda, producing the new improved “Qa`idat al-Jihad” or “Base for Holy War.” (Al-Qaeda means base in Arabic, and actually refers to Bin Laden’s earliest data base of graduates of his terror training camps in 1986-88). His correspondent is apparently a contributor to the Taliban cause and is assured that under Mulla Omar, the Omar Brothers Company is flourishing.
Al-Zawahiri hopes for success in an operation in “the Village” (Egypt) and urges sympathizers to come to Afghanistan for training. He said that his organization could not bear the travel expenses, and that volunteers would have to pay for the ticket out of their own pockets or take a small loan for that purpose.