Thursday, May 5, 2011

Icon of terror gone, but war remains

IN a daring and clinically lethal operation, they cut Osama bin Laden down right where he lived.The raid marks the passing of a long, bloody decade of war since 9/11.It comes as the great price of treasure and blood - around 6000 US combat deaths and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths - continues to be paid.Neither the Pakistani Government nor its intelligence agencies - long known for their ongoing lines of communication with Islamic militant groups - knew American boots were setting foot on their soil.That alone is, at least publicly, a first since the wars began.Storming in to the multi-layered luxury compound where Osama was hiding, the SEALs gave him the chance to surrender. When he refused, they blew him away with shots to the head. And at last, the al-Qaida inspiration for the 9/11 attacks lay dead in a pool of his own blood.President Obama and his agency chiefs could not have scripted it better if they'd tried.But, then again, neither could have al-Qaida.
For hardline Islamic militants continuing the holy war, or jihad, bin Laden inflamed, he will forever now be revered as a martyr.It is a dark reality that his death will inevitably be a rallying point.And in death he may be as valuable a symbol to al-Qaida as he was in life.In Iraq in 2004 I was taken to one of their training camps.Too many times I have seen into their eyes, witnessed their work, been taken inside their disciplined and brutishly effective organisation.Bin Laden's slaying is without a doubt a heavy symbolic body blow to the al-Qaida organisation.But when it comes to its ability to continue waging its campaign of attacks and terror, that's all it promises to be: symbolic.The shockwaves reverberating from bin Laden's death - those of unfettered jubilation in the US and those elsewhere in the world - go far beyond questions over the next generation of al-Qaida leadership.

Al-Qaida in Yemen vows revenge

A LEADER of al-Qaida's branch in Yemen has vowed revenge for the US killing of the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden."We will take revenge for the death of our Sheikh Osama bin Laden and we will prove this to the enemies of God," he told AFP, contacted by telephone from Yemen's southern province of Abyan, an al-Qaida stronghold."They will see what they haven't expected ... We are preparing a plan to continue jihad in the coming period," said the al-Qaida leader, requesting anonymity for "security reasons.""The martyrdom of Sheikh Osama does not mean that jihad (holy war) will end."
The official said that bin Laden had "prepared a thousand lions like himself and we will follow his path until we achieve God's promise to us - an Islamic Caliphate."The US announced on Monday that US commandos had shot dead bin Laden in a raid on his sprawling villa near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.Residents in Yemen's Abyan towns of Mudia, Mahfad and Loder - all of which are controlled by al-Qaida - said the jihadist network's supporters, mourning bin Laden, put up black banners at their homes and along roads.Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaida branches merged in January 2009 to form the Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), posing a serious threat to US interests as well as Yemen's embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.While bin Laden's ancestral homeland of Yemen has hailed his death, his followers in the impoverished country called it a "catastrophe" and vowed to keep up jihad.In March, at least 150 people were killed in a massive blast and fire at an ammunition plant looted the previous day by AQAP in Abyan, after parts of the region slipped from the capital Sanaa's control.Washington has expressed fears that al-Qaida could take advantage of a prolonged political crisis in Yemen, where close US ally Saleh has faced three months of mass protests calling for his ouster.

Osama bin Laden: A timeline of terror

OSAMA bin Laden's life from a wealthy and well-educated young Saudi to the world's most wanted terrorist followed a path of destruction.

- 1957: Osama Bin Laden is born to a Syrian mother in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is reportedly the seventeenth son among 52 brothers and sisters. His father Mohammed Awad bin Laden owns the biggest construction company in the kingdom of South Yemen. He is raised as a devout Wahabbi muslim.
- 1967: Osama Bin Laden's father dies in a Saudi Arabia plane crash when American pilot misjudges the landing.
- 1974: Bin Laden marries, aged 17 for the first time, to a Syrian girl Najwa Ghanem, also Bin Laden’s first cousin. Fathered up to 26 children.
- 1981: Obtains a degree in public administration from King Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah.
- 1981: Visits mujahdin refugees and fighters in Pakistan who fled the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He begins collecting money and supplies for them.
- 1982: Visits Afghanistan with construction machinery, which he uses to help the mujahadin.
- 1984: Establishes a Peshawar guesthouse in the tribal area of Pakistan, which became the first stop for Arab mujahadin before training or to head to the Afghan front. Also,
helps establish Maktab al-Khadamat, which funnels money, weapons and Muslim fighters into the war.
- 1986: Bin Laden builds command and training camps in Afghanistan and begins leading battles himself.
- 1988: His command complex is dubbed "The Base" or Al-Qa’ida. Eldest half-brother Salem bin Laden dies in a Texas plane crash.
- 1989: Goes to South Yemen, but is banned from travel after warning of an imminent invasion by Saddam Hussein, embarrassing the Yemeni leadership.
- 1990: Offers to bring Arab Mujahadeen to protect South Yemen from attack, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
- 1991: Bin Laden prepared to mobilise his forces, but is disappointed to learn that the US was sending forces to Kuwait. Has his travel restrictions lifted and leaves South Yemen for Pakistan and then Afghanistan, before flying into Sudan in his private jet late that year. Bin Laden is expelled from Saudi Arabi and his citizenship is revoke, and family members disown him.
- 1992: Continues to speak out against Saudi government for harboring American troops, for which the Saudis banished him. Lives in exile in Sudan.On December 29, the first bombing attack alleged to involve bin Laden occurs at a hotel in Yemen. Two people die.
- 1993: Bin Laden linked to the February World Trade Center bombing involving a truck bomb under the north tower.
- 1996: Under increasing diplomatic pressure, Sudan expels bin Laden. Bin Laden flees to eastern Afghanistan with three wives and 10 children. Issues his first anti-American message stating his desire to expel US forces from Arab countries. The Taliban takes control of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, where Bin Laden lives. Taliban leader Mullah Omar offers him protection.
- 1997: Bin Laden conducts TV interviews, including one with CNN in which he declares a holy war against the US. US plans an operation using special forces to kidnap bin Laden from his home in Kandahar. Bin Laden Persuades religious scholars in Afghanistan to sign a fatwah sanctioning "all means” to expel US forces from the Arab peninsula.
- 1998: Forms the International Islamic Front, a loose coalition of extremists from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh, calling on a "fatwah" which sanctions the killing of Jews and Americans. The US Navy launches a missile attack on bin Laden’s training camps at Khost in Afghanistan, missing him by a few hours. In April he speaks to the US ABC, and a fortnight later warns of an impending attack. In July the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are bombed within minutes of each other, leaving 224 people dead. Is listed among the FBI’s ten most wanted terrorists.
- 2000: Linked to an October terrorist attack on the warship USS Cole. Operatives working for the CIA attack a bin Laden convoy with a rocket propelled grenade. It is revealed Islamic militants headed by bin Laden planned attacks that would have included bombings in Jordan of the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman as well as the sinking of destroyer USS The Sullivans in Yemen and attacks within the US.
- 11 September 2001: Almost 3000 are killed when the World Trade Center’s twin towers are destroyed by hijacked commercial airlines deliberately crashed into the upper floors. The buildings collapsed and New York’s Manhattan Island is evacuated. Another airliner crashes into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. causing major damage. A third plane crashes in rural Pennsylvania when passengers rise up against the terrorists. The US launches a War on Terror to depose the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and capture al-Qaida operatives.
US government officials name bin Laden and al-Qaida as the prime suspects and offer a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture or death.Later that year it is wrongly reported bin Laden has died of lung complications.
- 2002: Maintains a low profile but makes headlines when Al-Jazeera broadcasts two audio tapes.
- 2003: Al-Jazeera broadcasts another bin Laden tape urging Muslims and Islamic nations to fight against any US-led attack on Iraq.
- 2003: Two sons are believed captured after a raid in southwestern Afghanistan.
- 2004: bin Laden formally claims responsibility for the World Trade Center attack. Al-Jazeera broadcasts a tape by bin Laden in which he claims the US operation in Iraq is part of a plan to control Arab oil reserves. The US House of Representatives votes unanimously to double the reward for bin Laden 's capture to $50 million.
- 2005: Speculation is raised about whether Bin Laden is alive or dead
- 2006: More recordings of bin Laden appear, showing preparations for the September 11 attacks.
- 2007: US and Afghan forces raid mountain caves after news of an Al-Qa’ida meeting there, but bin Laden is not found.
- 2009: Terror Rohan Gunaratna says captured Al-Qa’ida leaders confirmed Bin Laden had been hiding in the picturesque and mountainous Chitral
- 2010: Separate reports out of Israeli intelligence sources suggest Bin Laden had been hiding in Savzevar in Iran’s north east. The FBI publishes "aged progressed'' mug shots of bin Laden as their hunt continues. The release come despite continued speculation he is already dead.
- 2011: US forces kill Osama bin Laden in a military strike on a compound in Abbottabad, about 150km north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad

Al Qaeda without its leader

Even as Westerners celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden, cities around the world are bracing for repercussions. Hundreds of dedicated jihadi wannabes will be in mourning today and swearing to give their lives in revenge for the killing of Bin Laden by U.S. forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Bin Laden's death is a huge blow to the terrorist network, but at the same time, Al Qaeda has moved over the years from a highly centralized hierarchy with recruiting, training and orders all filtering down from top leaders to a much more loose and amorphous organization.Today the group's philosophy is one man, one bomb. In other words, it does not need another 9/11 to make its mark. One bomb in Times Square in New York placed by one dedicated suicide bomber, or one bomb on a New York subway — both things that were attempted last year — are now considered big enough statements.Al Qaeda's decentralization has ensured it will remain a viable franchise for some time. Anyone can join by planting a bomb somewhere. And almost anyone who travels to Pakistan or Afghanistan can receive training from Al Qaeda allies, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani Taliban or the Afghan group headed by Jalaluddin Haqqani.Pakistan has refused to go up against Al Qaeda allies like Haqqani because they have up to now waged their attacks in Afghanistan, not Pakistan. Allies like Lashkar-e-Taiba are tacitly tolerated because their main targets are Kashmir and India.
Before 9/11 there were no known Al Qaeda cells in Europe except for the Hamburg cell that launched the 2001 attacks. Today every European country has an Al Qaeda cell, and hundreds of Muslims with European passports have traveled to Pakistan's tribal areas for training and then returned to Europe.
After the arrest of three Moroccans in Germany recently for planning to plant bombs in train stations, German authorities acknowledged that more than 200 German citizens have received training in the tribal areas, and many of them have returned to Germany. The same is the case in Britain, Scandinavia, France, Spain and Italy.The threat of random suicide bombings in the U.S. and Europe is particularly high. So is the threat of plane hijackings and bombings of Western military targets and U.S. embassies in the Middle East.Attacks are likely. One type will be that carried out by dedicated long-term jihadists already living in Western societies as "sleepers." They may now be expected to spring into action with carefully honed plots they have been working on for years. The U.S. has previously derailed such attacks at the last moment.There is also likely to be an uptick in terrorism in Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda's influence among dedicated jihadists like those in the Haqqani group is still strong. Al Qaeda and its affiliated Pakistani groups will also be determined to launch a bombing campaign in Pakistan in memory of Bin Laden, which will heighten tensions in a country already beset with power shortages and an economic crisis.
Finally, Al Qaeda and its allies may find this the right moment to create major divisions between India and Pakistan by launching another Mumbai-style attack on Indian territory, which would aim to take the heat off of Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.The Middle East, with the ongoing Arab revolts, remains a vacuum that Al Qaeda will try to fill despite the setback of Bin Laden's death. The group will undoubtedly try to gain influence and clout among the new generation of leaders who have emerged in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and the Persian Gulf states — except that task will be much more difficult.Al Qaeda faces difficult days ahead, and clearly Bin Laden's death will give intelligence agencies around the world many clues and leads to catch other leaders. But Al Qaeda will not disappear overnight.

reality show live from Pakistan on SEALcam

Google the topics last week and there were stories as far as the eye could see. Google them now and all you'll get is the wind whistling through the deserted streets of the Internet.Nothing like the killing of the world's most-wanted terrorist to take care of the news' silly season. One Facebook posting appearing to be from the BBC trumpeted a link titled "Osama bin Laden Killed (LIVE VIDEO)." When clicked, the link takes the user to an outside page modeled to look like Facebook, where it asks the user to enter a verification code. When the user submits the code, the link is then posted to the user's Facebook account.Actually, to those of us uncomfortable with social networking, it's somehow reassuring to find that even among the Facebook generation, there's still one born every minute.
The families of 9/11 victims as well as various other factions have criticized the decision to bury Osama bin Laden's body at sea, and quickly. Some people want the satisfaction of having his body in custody; others want more proof that the corpse was that of the terrorist leader. Meanwhile, the two major reasons given by the Obama administration for the quick ocean burial ring a little hollow: that no other country would take his body, and that they wanted to follow the protocol required by Muslim law to bury within 24 hours. Not that these aren't true, but they don't sound like the real reasons.There are numerous situations in which a person's religious beliefs do not or cannot hold sway in these matters. If an autopsy is needed on a murder vicim, for example, burial will likely have to be delayed, even though both Islam and Judaism call for speedy burial. For that matter, strict Jewish practice calls for avoiding autopsy altogether, but criminal law takes priority over religious law.It's easier to believe a reason that's been given as an afterthought -- that a grave could become a shrine. But there's obviously more to this well-thought-out plan than that.Think of the trouble that would be caused by having custody of Bin Laden's body. There would be endless debates about how it should be treated, who should have access to it and how it would be guarded after interment. It would be harder to gain consensus for a sea burial if the body were in U.S. possession, and harder to make that burial a secret, location unknown.
In other words, there might have been a bit of public complaining after the fact, but there's no real public furor. It's easier to gain forgiveness than permission. That decision was as tactically smart as the attack on the Pakistani compound.
Back in 2005, when rookie Sen. Barack Obama was just beginning to plan his $745-million 2007-08 presidential campaign, U.S. intelligence became aware of a $1-million housing compound under construction in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a city of 1 million about 60 miles outside the capital.Using certain interrogation techniques on involuntary wartime guests, the CIA acquired the name of a high-level al Qaeda courier, who was eventually tracked toing and froing from said elaborate compound, which his invisible income would seem to put beyond his financial reach.Last August, as Obama vainly campaigned to preserve his Democratic Party's....
...House majority, he was apprised of the growing surmisal that the compound's 18-foot walls were not to keep the courier's dogs from digging up neighbors' gardens. And indeed Osama and one of his younger wives might well also be a compound resident. The CIA developed a plan to obliterate the compound with a salutory March flyover by a pair of B2s from Diego Garcia safely delivering smart bombs from high above.The good news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo. The bad news is such attacks reduce everything to dust and goo.Without a body, how could President Obama prove that he was The One who brought Osama sudden justice without the burden of time-consuming civil trials involving Eric Holder's former law partners as high-paid public defenders? So, although it meant only nine holes of weekend golf instead of 18, Obama OKd a May commando raid, as long as he could still attend the White House Correspondents Assn. dinner to mock that jerk Donald Trump. So on Sunday Washington time, Obama and aides entered the basement Situation Room to watch the Osama execution reality show live from Pakistan on SEALcam.
A dramatic presidential address was scheduled for late that evening. And because the president wanted to get all of his detailed ducks in a row, his major announcement actually came an hour late.Over the years Pakistan officials have been so helpful and trusted about the hunt for Osama that not one of them knew in advance of the U.S. raid on the compound, which is close to a military academy. The U.S. assault team flew from Afghanistan into Pakistan using holes in that country's radar system.Still, a "significant firefight" erupted that was so significant not one American was injured. One helicopter crashed, no, made a hard landing; it was a mechanical failure.One compound resident pointed out Osama. Three compound residents died in the firefight. One man used a woman as a human shield. She was an Osama wife. They both died. She was only shot in the leg running toward a SEAL. She didn't die. Another woman did on another floor. There was no human shield. The Osama son initially identified as shot and killed may have been the other one.The goal was to capture Osama or kill him if necessary. The plan was to kill Osama all along. He was encountered in a bedroom. He was given a brief opportunity to surrender. He didn't. Blam! He died instantly from gunshots to the chest and head, including a large one in the forehead over the eye. He was unarmed. But he resisted. You don't need a gun to resist.Osama's body was removed. The disabled chopper was detonated. Large fire ensued, attracting the attention of Pakistani authorities. Osama's DNA was collected by intelligence officials. They may or may not have actual Osama DNA from before to compare.If not, they can at least prove whether the dead compound body was related to Osama's 53 siblings produced by his father's 22 wives. Because it was so important to have photos of a dead Osama to head off evergreen Elvis-lives conspiracies, the gruesome big-hole-in-the-forehead photo has not been released -- and might never be.

Want to play cricket with Jehad Central?

We have all felt it, the authentic goose-bumps on the skin the tearing up when our Indianness tugs at our heart-strings. Question is does the government even acknowledge the countless Indians who have been a victim of Pakistan sponsored terrorism over the decades.
For me the biggest takeaway from President Obama's speech was his covenant with his fellow Americans that they did not die in vain. When he spoke of gaping holes left in families over dinner tables, arms aching to hug someone it was the sensitivity to the victim families of 9/11.
Do you remember any politician of any hue or party acknowledging the sheer human suffering in those affected by terror strikes across our country?
To all politicians we the people are a statistic, a number that is their hostage in the great geopolitical game, in the Mohali spirit in the desire for a Noble peace prize.
For all these things they are prepared overlook the breath-taking hypocrisy of Pakistan, its duplicity and its infinite desire to harm India. Our Prime Minister wants us to play cricket with Jehad Central. Great for the coffers of the BCCI, but what about the dishonor to the victims’ families and the countless martyrs over the decades that Pakistan has been waging war against India.

What kind of democracy is this that the citizen cannot even expect a right to life from the state?

America has funded Pakistan to the tune of over 50 billion dollars, but trusts us not to point out the hypocrisy inherent in the Pakistan line to the USA. Yes, of course, al Qaeda is the enemy, but you see Laskhar-e-Toiba and Jaish are just kindergarten kids practicing a kinder, gentler Jehad against India.

They are all the same. And now, even the USA is facing the blow-back of Pakistan double-speak.And, just one prediction the Army generals who so kindly protected Osama and are now extending the same courtesy to many other Taliban remember for the Jehadis - a nuclear armed nation is a greater prize than a war ravaged primitive Afghanistan?
And, the nuclear blackmail that Pakistan has always used against India now threatens the world.Vote bank politics when it involves terrorists is a dangerous game. And, all the candles burnt in Wagah and the so called spirit of Mohali will transform Pakistan.It is too far gone. It is Jehad Central on steroids. And, toxic off-shoots such as Kasab, Dawood Ibrahim and countless others, who have metasized into a terrorist cancer. We need to be afraid. Very afraid. And, ensure that we start respecting our own citizens’ right to life and liberty.That will only happen when Pakistan is declared a terrorist nation. And no, Dr Manmohan Singh it is not the same country that you remember with such nostalgic longing.

Osama’s death – India’s vindication

Almost a decade after America suffered its deadliest terrorist attack sponsored by al Qaeda, which claimed the lives of thousands of its citizens and forced the world’s most powerful nation to take unprecedented steps in mainland security, the US has finally taken revenge by eliminating Osama bin Laden.Laden’s killing brings to fruit years of relentless counter-terrorism operations launched by the US and its allies aimed at bringing to justice the man, who is reviled in the West as the personification of evil and a mass murderer of innocent civilians.

The killing of al Qaeda founder is undoubtedly “a momentous occasion”, for the Americans, who were often criticised for waging a war against Muslims in the name of eliminating terrorism, and more importantly for the whole world, as terrorism today threatens global peace.The development holds good for the US President, Barack Obama, who despite promising to change the lives of Americans during his election campaign, had been struggling to bring the recession-hit national economy back on track and rebuilding ties with the Muslim world.Osama, whose Islamist ‘holy war’, made him a household name after the September 11 attacks in the US and gave him a cult status, changed the course of history forcing the US and its allies to rewrite their security doctrines.He is the same man who had issued a fatwa in 1998—a religious edict—on behalf of the World Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders, stating that killing Americans and their allies was Muslim duty.

So it’s quite obvious why the Americans and the people world over have erupted in joyous celebration following the death of Osama bin Laden- the man, who they have hated as a mass murder of a thousands of innocent civilians.

The sympathizers of Laden or those who hailed him or revered him as the champion of oppressed Muslims fighting injustice and humiliation, celebrated when the United States was put through its most difficult times after al Qaeda challenged its sovereignty in 2001. However, now ten years later, it is the turn of Americans and all the victims of terrorism to celebrate Laden’s death and feel proud of what the US has accomplished. Though, the US managed to eliminate this dreaded terrorist after a decade-long seek and destroy mission, probably the world’s largest and longest manhunt ever, justice has surely been done to all those who lost their lives, who suffered because of Laden’s unmindful and hatred-filled campaign against world’s oldest democracy.

In all probability, bin Laden’s killing marks the most significant achievement to date in America’s effort to defeat al Qaeda and with this, it has reaffirmed its unmistakable message that it will not compromise with the security of its nationals and any threat to its sovereignty. However, the development has left everyone with a pertinent question - what would be the likely fallout of Laden’s killing? Whether it would lead to a safer world? Whether it would enable the US to further weaken al Qaeda’s global terror network and disintegrate it from the Taliban? It is yet to be seen whether Laden’s killing would turn out to be a turning point in US-Pak counter-terrorism partnership and whether US will now act tough against Pakistan given the fact that Osama was provided a safe haven in Pakistan.

The development also holds significance for New Delhi, which has always raised doubts over Islamabad’s commitment to fighting terrorism. Osama’s confirmed presence and killing in the backyard of capital Islamabad vindicates India’s stand that Pakistan remains the epicentre of terrorism.However, the question still remains unanswered as to when will we get the heads of those who masterminded the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai? When will India punish the hijackers of Indian Airlines flight IC-814, which finally saw the dreaded militant Maulana Masood Azhar slipping out of India’s hands? When will the founders of several banned terrorist organizations including Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, SIMI etc be brought to justice.

Osama’s death is a pointer to the fact the establishment in Pakistan is involved in a dual game – on one hand it claims to be acting as a committed partner to the US in its war against terror, and on the other, it has been remote controlling terror activities and shielding militant groups operating openly on its soil. All this lends credence to India’s repeated claims that the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attack, including the controllers and handlers of the terrorists who actually carried out the attack, continue to hide in Pakistan.So, is it not high time for the world, especially the United States to realise that Pakistan has not fulfilled its commitment on fighting terrorism and has in fact cheated all in the pretext of diplomacy. The government of India must not miss out on this opportunity and must mobilize support of international community in pressurising Pakistan to arrest those suspected to be behind Mumbai terror attacks.

India must use diplomatic channels to build pressure on Islamabad to take action against the Jihadi groups involved in anti-India activities and provide voice samples of those suspected to be among the controllers and handlers of the 26/11 terrorists.
The killing of one Osama bin Laden will not end the global war on terrorism and it is beyond doubt that al Qaeda will get demoralised and will not avenge the death of their supreme leader, so the governments world over now need to be more vigilant and active on counter-terrorism efforts. We must also ensure that the international community does not let down its united effort to overcome terrorism and eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that have been provided to terrorists in our own neighbourhood. The struggle to defeat religious fanaticism must continue unabated.