The origins of the Assassins trace back to just before the First Crusade around 1080. They belonged to a cult founded by Sheik Hasan-i-Sabbah. A passionate believer of the Isma’ili beliefs, Hasan-i-Sabbah was well liked throughout Syria and most of the Middle East by other Isma’ili, which led to a number of people becoming his followers. Using his fame and popularity Sabbah founded the Order of the Assassins.
After creating the Order, Sabbah searched for a location that would be fit for a sturdy headquarters and decided on the mountain-top fortress at Alamut in what is now northwestern Iran. Sabbah adapted the fortress to suit his needs of not only defense from hostile forces but also indoctrination of his followers.
Spending most of his days at Alamut working on religious works and doctrines for his Order, Sabbah was never to leave his fortress again in his lifetime. He had established a secret society of deadly assassins, one which was built in a hierarchical format. Below Sabbah, the Grandmaster, were those known as Greater Propagandists, followed by the normal Propagandists, the Rafiqs Companions, and the Lasiqs Adherents. It was the Lasiqs who were trained to become some of the most feared assassins, or as they were called, Fida’i (self-sacrificing agent), in the known world.
Marco Polo describes how the Old Man of the Mountain (Sabbah) would drug his young followers with hashish (hence the word assassin), lead them to a paradise and then claim that only he had the means to allow for their return. Perceiving that Sabbah was either a prophet or some kind of magic man, his disciples, believing that only he had the key to paradise, became fanatics to his cause, willing to carry out his every request.
With his new weapons, Sabbah began to order multiple assassinations. Such was his fearsome reputation that he could «warn-off» Crusader-lords such as Richard 1st of England and generals such as the great Saladin himself simply by leaving a couple of (hashish) cakes in their sleeping tents (under their pillows).
Over ten centuries later, exactly ten years ago today, another old man of the mountain, Osama bin Laden, lurking in a cave deep in the tribal uplands of the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands, launched his own fanatical Fida’i, brainwashed by the hideous, twisted and hate-filled ideology of religious extremism, to attack the heart of America. On this infamous day the soldiers of Al Qaida high-jacked four airliners two of which they slammed into the Twin Towers of New York.
Up to three thousand innocent men, women and children perished.
May their souls rest in eternal peace.