Bin Laden Hideout vs. Al Qaeda Training Manual

In our Building Intent project, we developed a geoprofiling algorithm that predicts the location of facilities that support adversary operations in the urban environment. Geoprofiling is a technique that is widely used in serial crime investigations. In our project, we researched and developed a building intent inference system based on terrorist preferences, building characteristics, and social network behavior. Our approach learns the utility function that the adversaries are using, and classifies and predicts the potential utility of a facility to the adversaries based on the derived metadata of each facility using influence networks. For terrorist preferences, we have studied Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants: The Al-Qaeda Training Manual in order to find building use tactics that the adversary is training its recruits, and found a significant number of building use related tactics and procedures embodied in these manuals. In collaboration with the Terrorism Research Center in Fulbright College, University of Arkansas, we then studied the international terrorism cases in the American Terrorism Study, and found empirical evidence that shows the practice of terrorism manual tactics in the observed data. Based on these findings, we developed a baseline set of indicators for modeling building intent, and researched the likely causal connections among these variables. We then built extractors to derive a set of metadata for these indicators, and used machine learning algorithms to find the causal connections between the incidents or events and building attributes, and model parameters, and build classifiers based terrorist process preferences , building characteristics, and guilt by association data.

As shown in the figure below, our geoprofiling algorithm does a nice job in predicting the Japanese Red Army terrorist Yu Kikumura's residence in New York based on the American Terrorism study. Here the blue markers signify police stations and white arrows signify the egress points. As shown in the figure, Yu Kikumura's residence at 327 East 34th Street, NY is in the red hotspot area predicted by our algorithm. Avoiding police stations and ease of egress were two of the primary factors in Kikumura’s choice of housing. Not only is his apartment equidistant from the nearest police departments – all of which are over one kilometer away – it’s back-alley access road to the underground Queens Memorial Tunnel provides a quick get-away by car. In addition, the examination of the residence floor plan reveals that the apartment building had numerous staircases (one of which is private to the unit) to the basement level with a rear exit.

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The Al Qaeda Training Manual gives several instructions for renting a residence as shown in the table below. For instance, it is preferable to rent apartments on the first floor for ease of egress, avoid apartments near police stations and government buildings, and in isolated or deserted locations, rent in newly developed areas, and the like. In particular, the Al Qaeda Training Manual calls for the use if the following tactics in renting an apartment:

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So how does the location of Bin Laden's secret hideout in in Abbottabad follow the advice of the Al Qaeda Training Manual? Not that closely. Bin Laden clearly did not follow the tactics for selecting a ground floor location by living on the third floor, for avoiding police stations and government buildings by selecting a location near the Pakistan Military Academy, for finding an apartment in newly developed areas where people do not know each other by choosing a neighborhood with retired Army Generals, and for preparing ways of vacating the premises in case of a surprise attack by not building exit stairs. The only tactic that Bin Laden has used from the list above is avoiding an isolated location. One wonders if Bin Laden made a concerted effort to avoid his own tactical advice in order to thwart geoprofiling techniques. Perhaps another consideration that will need to be taken into account in future geoprofiling is the assistance from outside forces, given the possible connection to a support network that included elements of the Pakistani military or intelligence services in the Abottabad area.