REVIEW: Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror


By Rohan Gunaratna.  New York, NY:  Columbia University Press, 2002.  276 pages


Rohan Gunaratna is a research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrew’s in Scotland and an honorary fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter-terrorism in Israel.  He has also consulted with Western intelligence agencies and the United Nations on anti-terrorism.  While impressive, these are not the credentials that qualify this book over the many competitors in the field.  Of central interest here are the more than 200 terrorist interviews—some confidential—that he conducted in 15 countries over five years (1997-2001), some with al Qaeda members.  Gunaratna supplements his interviews with impressive research in primary and secondary sources.  The magnitude of detail in this book can be staggering, especially for those accustomed to reading about the traditional Cold War enemies and their behavior.

Based on the interviews and documentary research, Gunaratna discusses al Qaeda’s origins, the initial and subsequent roles of Osama bin Laden..

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