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First Mention: Introducing Al-Qaida To The NPR Audience


Fear of terrorist attacks drives presidential debates and dinner table conversations these days. We hear about ISIS or the Islamic State, which has terrorized the Middle East, Africa and Europe. But for years it was al-Qaida that filled the headlines, which leads up to that occasional feature in which we search NPR's archives for a...



First Mention.

SIEGEL: Going back into our archives, we found that NPR first mentioned al-Qaida on August 8, 1998. It was in a report by Tom Gjelten about a suspect in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kenya that killed more than 200 people.

SHAPIRO: A man named Mohammed Saddiq Odeh had been brought to the U.S. from Pakistan to stand trial. Odeh denied he had any role in the bombing. And actually, the criminal complaint providing the basis for his arrest did not even tie Odeh to the embassy bombing. This is what Tom Gjelten learned.


TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The document focuses instead on Odeh's association with an international terrorist organization known as al-Qaida, which the FBI says was set up to kill American military and civilian personnel around the world. The FBI agent who filed the complaint says al-Qaida is led by Osama bin Laden, whom U.S. officials say masterminded and financed the embassy bombings.

SIEGEL: We learned about a group and a man that we would be hearing a lot more about in the coming years.


GJELTEN: Mohammed Saddiq Odeh admitted he was an active member of bin Laden's group al-Qaida and that he believes the group was responsible for the embassy bombings. Odeh allegedly told FBI investigators he was himself trained as a terrorist and that he would've been willing to carry out a bombing against Americans if asked to do so by bin Laden.

SHAPIRO: After this first mention of al-Qaida on our air the name would of course come back many times after that, including three years later in 2001 in an even more terrifying display. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.