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The Looming Tower  
Hardcover first edition, 2006, Knopf
Author Lawrence Wright
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Modern history
Publisher Knopf
Publication date 2006
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 480
ISBN 978-0375414862
OCLC Number 64592193
Dewey Decimal 973.931 22
LC Classification HV6432.7 .W75 2006

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 is a historical look at the way in which Al-Qaeda came into being, the background for various terrorist attacks and how they were investigated, and the events that led to the 9/11-2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The book was written by Lawrence Wright, and he received a Pulitzer Prize for it.

The Looming Tower is largely focused on the people involved; what they were like, why they did what they did, and how they interacted. The book starts with Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian religious scholar who visited the United States in the late 1940s and returned to his home to become an anti-West Islamist and eventually a martyr for his beliefs. There is also a portrait of Ayman al-Zawahiri, from his childhood in Egypt to his participation in and later leadership of Egyptian Islamic Jihad to his merging of his organization with Al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden is the person described the most, from his childhood in Saudi Arabia in an incredibly rich family, to his participation in the jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, to his role as a financier of terrorist groups, to his stay in Sudan, to his return to Afghanistan and his interactions with the Taliban. The 1998 United States embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya are described, as is the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

Lawrence Wright also describes in detail some of the Americans involved in combating terror, in particular Richard A. Clarke, chief counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council, and John P. O'Neill, Assistant Deputy Director of Investigation for the FBI. John O'Neill's story is perhaps the most amazing one of all, considering that he was America's top bin Laden hunter until his retirement from the FBI in August 2001, after which he got a job as head of security at the World Trade Center, where he died in the 9/11 attacks.

The book also describes some of the problems with lack of cooperation between the FBI and the CIA and other American government organizations that prevented them from uncovering the 9/11 plot in time.

Because The Looming Tower is to a large extent focused on telling the story of the people involved it does not actually describe the 9/11 plot and its execution in much detail. It focuses more on the background and the conditions that produced the people who allegedly planned and staged the attack, and information about those who were combating terror against the USA. (For a description of the 9/11 attack itself, see The 9/11 Commission Report).

About the title

The words "the looming tower" appear in the Qur'an. According to Lawrence Wright, Osama bin Laden at a wedding before the 9/11 attack quoted a line from the fourth Sura of the Qur'an, repeating it three times: "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower."[1]


External links

Preceded by
Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya
Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction
Succeeded by
The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945


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