Over the last ten years, journalist and al-Qa'ida expert Abdel Bari Atwan has cultivated uniquely well-placed sources and amassed a wealth of information about al-Qa'ida's origins, masterminds and plans for the future. Atwan reveals how al-Qa'ida's radical departure from the classic terrorist/guerrilla blueprint has enabled it to outpace less adaptable efforts to neutralise it. The fanaticism of its fighters, and their willingness to kill and be killed, are matched by the leadership's opportunistic recruitment strategies and sophisticated understanding of psychology, media and new technology - including the use of the Internet for training, support and communications. Atwan shows that far from committing acts of violence randomly and indiscriminately, al-Qa'ida attacks targets according to a decisive design underwritten by unwavering patience. He also argues that events in Iraq and Saudi Arabia are watershed moments in the group's evolution that are making it more dangerous by the day, as it refines and appropriates the concept of jihad and makes the suicide bomber a permanent feature of a global holy war.
While Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain al-Qa'ida's figureheads, Atwan introduces a new kind of leader made possible by its horizontal chain of command, epitomised by the brutal Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the anonymous bombers of London, Madrid, Amman, Bali and elsewhere.
Abdel Bari Atwan was Editor-in-Chief at the London-based newspaper, Al Quds al-Arabi, which he edited for the twenty years. Atwan interviewed Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s and has cultivated uniquely well-placed sources from within the various branches of al-Qa'ida over the last fifteen years. His other works include After Bin Laden: Al-Qa'ida, The Next generation and A Country of Words: A Palestinian Journey from the Refugee Camp to the Front Page (both published by Saqi Books).