Bin Laden Took Part in 1986 Arms Deal, Book Says





Osama bin Laden flew to London in 1986 to help negotiate the purchase of Russian-made surface-to-air missiles to be used by Arab fighters then battling the Soviet military in Afghanistan, according to a new book on the bin Laden family.

Bin Laden and his half brother, Salem, met several times with the contacts at the luxury Dorchester hotel in London, according to "The Bin Ladens," by journalist Steve Coll. "Don't do any jokes with my brother," Salem is said to have told the others. "He's very religious."

The deal for Russian SA-7 missiles was arranged via "contacts" with the German arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch, through an associate of Salem bin Laden, the book says. It suggests that payment for the weapons was made by the government of Saudi Arabia and that the weapons eventually were purchased in South America.

At the time of the weapons shipments, both the U.S. and Saudi governments were supporting Afghan and Arab forces resisting the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. But while the Reagan administration supplied Stinger missiles to the Afghans, the book says that the Afghans did not want the Americans providing such weaponry directly to Arab groups that had joined the fight, including forces organized by Osama bin Laden.


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