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0n Aug. 17, 1995, Amir Maawia Siddiqi, the son of a bookshop owner in a small village in Pakistan, set down his oath of allegiance to the jihad.
"I, Amir Maawia Siddiqi, son of Abdul Rahman Siddiqi, state in the presence of God that I will slaughter infidels my entire life," he wrote. "And with the will of God I will do these killings in the supervision and guidance with Harkat ul-Ansar."
He accepted a code name, Abu Rashid, signed his name and concluded, "May God give me strength in fulfilling this oath."
The oath, found in a house in Kabul used by a Pakistani Islamist group, was part of an extensive paper record that fleeing Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters left behind last fall at sites across Afghanistan. Reporters for The New York Times collected over 5,000 pages of documents from abandoned safe houses and training camps destroyed by bombs.
It is a rare collection, the raw, unmediated stuff of the jihadis' lives. Individually, the documents are shards — as mundane as a grocery list and as chilling as notes for the proper positioning of a truck bomb. But taken together, they tell a rich inside story of the network of radical Islamic groups that Osama bin Laden helped assemble in Afghanistan.
Other notebooks depicted an entirely different type of training: espionage and explosives classes, perhaps for more advanced recruits or those headed to terror cells abroad. (Ahmed Ressam, a Qaeda member convicted of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during millennium celebrations, testified at a trial in New York last year that he first attended a basic infantry camp and then received advanced training.)
An espionage class notebook, written in neat Arabic but not signed, had the following headings: "How to use a code, security of operations, security plan, intelligence, intelligence gathering, surveillance, methods of communication, methods of opening envelopes, persuasion, planning for intelligence operations, recruitment, managing assets, choosing an asset."
"Persuasion," for instance, involved "obtaining information from a person through conversations with him without his realizing the importance of what he is saying."
There were step-by-step instructions on surveillance: "Get complete description of person, his habits, his daily errands, his children and his wife, his standing in the community, his skills and educational goals, his income, when he wakes, the best times for inspecting his house, places he goes regularly."