Sunday, May 1, 2011

Obama kills Osama

Osama bin Laden is dead and his body has been recovered by U.S. authorities, U.S. officials said on Sunday.

U.S. President Barack Obama was to make the dramatic announcement shortly in a hastily called, late-night appearance at the White House.

As they waited for his statement, multiple news organizations reported sources in the White House had confirmed bin Laden's death almost a decade after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

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It was unclear where how Mr. bin Laden was killed and how the U.S. captured his body. Officials have long believed bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world, was hiding a mountainous region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Mr. bin Laden was killed at a mansion outside the Pakistani capital Islamabad, CNN reported. A senior U.S. counterterrorism official told Associated Press Mr. bin Laden was killed in a ground operation in Pakistan, not by a Predator drone. A senior Pakistani intelligence official confirmed that he was killed in Pakistan

The Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader became both the face of global terrorism and a symbol of the futile efforts to seek it out and fight it.

While his death is a victory for the anti-terror crusade by the U.S. and its allies, it's unlikely his demise will end the now-fractured network of terror cells that reaches across the world.

Counter-terror experts have noted al-Qaeda has grown into a more fragmented movement, its violent ideas having been franchised over to local allies who can operate without a central, larger-than-life figurehead leader.

“Al-Qaeda is an organization that evolved into an ideology, with Osama bin Laden's message receiving widespread attention in the Muslim world,” said Peter Bergen, one of the rare Western journalists who has met Mr. bin Laden in person.

“Clearly, the ideology will survive Osama bin Laden's death.”

Al-Qaeda has farmed out attacks to regional players in East Africa, Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, local radical partners it inspired and funded over the years, said Rohan Gunaratna, author of Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror.

“It will be a messy blow to the main al-Qaeda structure but the threat of terrorism will continue.”

At the same time, there are other examples of terrorist groups losing momentum after the capture of their charismatic leader.

After Turkey seized Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdistan Workers Party, an initial wave of retaliatory attacks eventually petered and his supporters ended their armed campaign. In Peru, the arrest of Abimael Guzman Reymoso of the Shining Path decimated the violent Maoist movement.

Mr. bin Laden reached out to various associated groups, such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, Jemaah Islamiah, elsewhere in southeast Asia, the Salafi Group in Algeria and other insurgents in Indonesia and Yemen. These groups provided not only a striking capacity but also training facilities, filling in for the loss of al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan.

“These groups play an equally important role. We are seeing terrorist capability in the regional, local Islamic radical groups,” Mr. Gunaratna said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda has been severely crippled, losing its sanctuary in Afghanistan. Top operational planners have been captured -- such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah -- or killed, such as Muhammad Atef. More than 3,000 alleged members or supporters have been arrested, more than of 600 of whom are now languishing in indefinite detention at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The U.S. and its allies have seized massive caches of weapons, handbooks and, more importantly, computers, videotapes and other electronics such as satellite and cellular phones that can be examined to retrace their former owners' activities and whereabouts.

Financial regulators have frozen tens of millions of dollars in assets from individuals and groups alleged to be raising funds for terrorism.

But al-Qaeda's brand of terror hasn't been put out of business. It has been accused of having a hand in everything from deadly 2002 bombings in Bali that left hundreds dead to the recent uprisings in Libya and Yemen to last week's bombing in Marrakesh, which killed 15 people in the usually peaceful country's deadliest attack since 2003.

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