“On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda`s terror: justice has been done…Today`s achievement is testament to the greatness of our country.`` Americans celebrated as US President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden.
US Navy SEALs shot dead the world’s most dreaded terrorist with a bounty of USD 25 million on his head last year in a raid on his Abbottabad house in Pakistan before dawn on May 02 local time, which was May 01 in the United States.
Americans had a reason to celebrate. Osama was the one who masterminded a series of coordinated attacks on the eleventh day of September in 2001 that completely shook the United States of America. The world’s biggest terror attack on the world’s biggest economy in fact changed the definition of terrorism.
The US must have heaved a sigh of relief after killing its unruly ‘son’ in the largest and longest manhunt ever. First, the Central Intelligence Agency backed the Saudi-born zealot for mobilising Muslim youth of the Arab world for jihad against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in 1980s. He was trained and armed in secret camps in Pakistan. But when he tasted success, he and his Arab youth force shifted their focus to their Western mentors. A new jihad against the `Crusaders` had begun. Osama had turned into a Frankenstein`s monster. But the monster was destined to die at the hands of its own creator – the US.
And what an irony, it was killed at the place where it was created - Pakistan. The world`s most wanted man was living a stone`s throw from Pakistan`s elite military academy when he was killed by the US Navy SEALs. This very well indicated the relationship Osama shared with the so-called US’ ally in its war on terror. His discovery in Abbottabad further dealt a huge blow to US-Pakistan relations.
But is the al Qaeda leader really dead? He is, but Osamaism lives on.
In the 1980s and 90s, Osama influenced thousands of rich and poor Muslim youth in Africa, Middle East and central Asian countries to use jihadi terrorism as a tool to correct what he thought were historic injustices done to Islamic brotherhood by the non-Islamic forces. Today, he is not there, but his ideology of using arms against ‘Crusaders’ still motivates many across the world.
Al Qaeda`s key affiliates such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen; al Shabaab of Somalia; al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, based in Algeria and Mali; Boko Haram, of Nigeria; and Pakistan Taliban, are very much active. The terror plots, though foiled, after Osama’s death indicate the challenge security forces face. The United States has already foiled two terrorist plots this year.
The continued counter-terrorist action taken by the United States is said to have lessened the prospect of another 9/11 in the US. But there is a threat from al Qaeda’s affiliates as well as lone wolves inspired by the group to wage ‘holy war’. Will the agencies be able to identify Faisal Shahzads and underwear bombers? They have a hard task to perform.
Al Qaeda`s new leader, Dr Ayman al-Zawahri, has yet to show his charisma and his ability to tie multiple groups together to lead a single, terrible attack. But Zawahiri should not be underestimated. Many experts have underlined that the threat of nuclear terrorism under Zawahiri’s leadership is huge. The new al Qaeda leader intends to carry out an attack with weapons of mass destruction.
The world must keep this in mind that Osama led an organisation which used terror to kill thousands of people across the world in the name of an ideology. However, one man`s death does not mean that an ideology is finished. The threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates is still very much there. Extremists still endure; thousands of Osamas are still alive.