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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 12, 2003

Pilgrimage 'can provide cover for terror'

One if by land, two if by hajj. An aspect of the pilgrimage to Mecca we do not think about
INCREASED US fears of terror attacks may not be unfounded. The Hajj, the huge annual Muslim pilgrimage to Islam's holy city of Mecca, can provide cover for militant organisations attempting to secretly place operatives around the globe to stage attacks. Four years ago, Osama bin Laden's relatives, worried about his ill health, tried to use the pilgrimage as a cover to visit the Saudi-born terrorist while he was holed up in Afghanistan, says a former Afghan airline official who was approached by the fugitive terrorist's family.

The sheer number of travellers for the five-day pilgrimage, which typically draws about 2 million Muslim visitors, means tracking movements becomes difficult if not impossible and would-be terrorists know it.

The US government has warned of an increased possibility the terrorist network would launch an attack to coincide with Muslim holy days.

During the 1999 Hajj, bin Laden's mother and brother apparently contacted officials at Afghanistan's state-run airline, Ariana, to sneak aboard a flight to visit the ailing terrorist in his Afghan hideaway.[more]