Road to 9/11 book wins Lionel Gelber Prize

American author and academic Lawrence Wright, who spent five years researching and analyzing the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks, has won the 2007 Lionel Gelber Prize.

American author and academic Lawrence Wright, who spent five years researching and analyzing the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks, has won the 2007 Lionel Gelber Prize.

Judith Gelber, niece of Canadian diplomat Lionel Gelber, creator of the prize, announced Wright's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 as winneron Tuesday in Toronto.

The book traces the roots of Islamic militancy and tells the story of the lives of both al-Qaeda militants and counter-terrorism figures such as John O'Neill of the FBI.

"Wright takes us on a remarkable journey through the Middle East with this brilliantly reported book that shines light on dark places,"said Barbara McDougall, Canada's former secretary of state for external affairs, who headed the prize jury.

"He captures the human emotion of his characters, portraying them honestly with the diligence of a brilliant literary craftsman."

The prize, established in 1989, is awarded by the Lionel Gelber Foundation in partnership with the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine.

Wright will receive the prize March 27 in Toronto and will give theannual Lionel Gelber Prize public lecture at the Munk Centre.

Wright is an author and screenwriter, as well as a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine. A portion of his book was published in The New Yorker in 2002 under the title "The Man Behind Bin Laden."

He was screenwriter for the 1998 movie The Siege, starring Denzel Washington, and also wrote the TV movie Noriega: God's Favorite.

Wrightis a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,a fellow at the Center on Law and Security at New York University School of Law, and taught for two years at the American University in Cairo.

Hehas written five non-fiction books, including In the New World: Growing Up with America, 1960 - 1984, Saints & Sinners and Twins: Genes, Environment, and the Mystery of Identity.