September 9, 2001: Killing of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan

Al Qaeda killed Afghan Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 9, 2001 in what was seen as a harbinger of 9/11.

While predicting the future is for charlatans, sometimes events do take place that are harbingers for what comes next.

TAKHAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN — Do you ever find it curious that we humans seem to be able to handle only one big event at a time? After all, it is a big world and lots of things happen more or less simultaneously. And yet we can’t pay attention them all. Maybe it has to do with attention span. Or a desire to gravitate to the shiniest object – squirrel!

On August 31, 1997 Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris. The world went apeshit and that was all you could hear about for days (weeks? months? years?) afterwards. It was as if the world had stopped turning.

Do you know who else died around the same time? Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that’s who. On September 5. Did you know that in 1997 when you were consuming all the news about Princess Di?

So who was more important or had a bigger impact? A woman who married into royalty and led a life of leisure or a nun who helped the poorest of the poor in India? Go ahead, take your time on that one.

On this day in 2001

Something analogous happened in the world of terrorism in 2001. On this day (September 9) that year, the ‘lion of the Panjshir’, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed by Al Qaeda (AQ) in northeastern Afghanistan by two terrorists posing as journalists. Massoud was known for his fight against the Soviet occupation of his country and was the leader of the so-called Northern Alliance (NA).

The problem was that the NA did not get along with the Taliban. The Taliban got along with AQ. AQ wanted Massoud out of the way so that the Taliban could get along better with AQ. See where this going?

He was a one-of-a-kind character in Afghan history and I don’t think anyone can be like him

Massoud’s son Ahmad

Two days later 9/11 happened. Some believe that Massoud had information on the plot: hence he had to be eliminated. His death may have removed the final obstacle to that catastrophic attack.

Now do you see why it is important to keep an eye on multiple things at once? Squirrel!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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