Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama bin Laden dead

Nearly 10 years after the traumatic Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, the world's most wanted terrorist leader Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan.
President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, was killed in a firefight during an operation he ordered Sunday inside Pakistan, ending a 10-year manhunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist.

9.45 pm: Initial DNA results show a " very confident match " to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a U.S. official said on Monday. The test showed "high confirmation" that it was bin Laden killed in the raid in Pakistan, the official said.

9.30 pm: Pakistan faced enormous embarrassment after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces, raising questions over whether its military and intelligence were too incompetent to catch him themselves or knew all along where he was hiding.

9.15 pm:
Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said on Monday that news of Osama bin Laden's death was a "positive step" even as he criticised the United States for launching the raid within his country's borders.

9.00 pm:
Refusing to talk to striking Air India pilots, the government said it will wait till the stir is called off and abide by the court's order on the Contempt of Court proceedings initiated by the airline management.
"I have already stated that there will be no talks with the pilots till they are on strike," Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi told reporters.

8.45 pm: The Delhi High Court deferred the bail plea of five corporate honchos, including the promoter of Etisalat DB, Sanjay Chandra, in connection with the 2G spectrum fraud case, till Wednesday.

8.30 pm:
Osama bin Laden taunted and defied the United States in a series of audio and occasional video messages for nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

8.20 pm:
 Timeline - Some of the major attacks carried out or inspired by al Qaeda and its associates.
The killing of Osama bin Laden in a firefight with U.S. forces in a Pakistani town on Sunday caps a series of al Qaeda leaders captured or killed in Pakistan since the Sept. 11 attacks.

8.00 pm:
Governments across the world have hailed the US action against Osama bin Laden, and put their forces on alert to thwart possible retaliatory attacks, the Wall Street Journal reports.

7.45 pm:
Members of an elite Navy Seals team dropped by helicopter to the compound were under orders to kill not capture bin Laden, a senior US security official told Reuters.

7.30 pm:
US and NATO officials sought to reassure Afghans that Osama bin Laden's death will not weaken the international mission in Afghanistan, even as the Afghan president said the successful strike in Pakistan shows that the fight against terrorism should focus more outside his country's borders.

7.15 pm: Osama’s violent jihad no longer holds any appeal in the Middle-East, and his death will be received with relief, reports the Wall Street Journal. Its writer Margaret Coker says, “Ten years ago, the philosophy that only violence would bring about change appeared valid for many in a region filled with geriatric and entrenched authoritarian rulers who for decades had dismissed the need for change and had ruthlessly cracked down on any time of local dissent. But public opinion swung away from al Qaeda in recent years, due to the growing disgust for its suicide bombings and civilian targets. At the same time, radical political and social changes that have led to the ousters of entrenched leaders in Egypt and Tunisia and outright rebellion in Libya have further discredited the group.”

6:50 pm:
The killing of Osama bin Laden will deal a big psychological blow to al Qaeda but may have little practical impact on an increasingly decentralized group that has operated tactically without him for years. Al Qaeda has also been hurt ideologically by uprisings in the Arab world by ordinary people seeking democracy and human rights -- notions anathema to bin Laden, who once said democracy was akin to idolatry as it placed man's desires above God's. 

6:40 pm:
Within about two hours of reports first surfacing (and since confirmed by the President) that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, a Facebook Page titled "Osama Bin Laden is DEAD" has already accumulated more than 300,000 "likes."

6:29 pm: 'Thank god my father doesn't run the world," says Omar bin Laden, Osama's fourth son, in 2010. He was not, as may be imagined, referring to the violence Osama unleashed around the world through al Qaeda -- but to the fact that his puritanical father may not quite have liked the vision Omar was taking in at the time: that of a statuesque dancer in a Damascus nightclub, dressed in a red rhinestone bra and panties, with a black shimmy belt and an  ostrich-feather crown, who gyrated her hips as Osama's son watched in fascination.

6:24 pm:
After spending many years hunting down the world's most wanted man, why did the US bury Osama bin Laden at sea within 24 hours of killing him?

The reason is bound up within Islamic practice and tradition. And that practice calls for the body of the deceased to be buried within 24 hours, according to a US official, who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters.

"We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition," confirmed the official. "This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner."

6.23 pm. If a person dies on a ship and if there is no fear of the decay of the dead body and if there is no problem in retaining it for sometime on the ship, it should be kept on it and buried in the ground after reaching the land. Otherwise, after giving Ghusl, Hunut, Kafan and Namaz-e-Mayyit it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet. And as far as possible it should not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by the sea predators.

6.24 pm. If it is feared that an enemy may dig up the grave and exhume the dead body and amputate its ears or nose or other limbs, it should be lowered into sea, if possible, as stated in the foregoing rule.

6.25 pm. The expenses of lowering the dead body into the sea, or making the grave solid on the ground can be deducted from the estate of the deceased, if necessary.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is finally heard from, on the news of the day.

"I welcome it as a significant step forward and hope that it will deal a decisive blow to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The international community and Pakistan in particular must work comprehensively to end the activities of all such groups who threaten civilized behaviour and kill innocent men, women and children," Singh says in his official reaction

6:14 pm:
The American helicopters that raided Osama's mansion flew low from Afghanistan to escape Pakistani radars. About 40 men stormed in once the aircraft had reached Abbotabad. They asked him to surrender, and shot him dead when he refused to co-operate, a BBC World correspondent said, quoting official information released in Washington.

6:10 pm:
"In June 2009, Obama directed his CIA director to "provide me within 30 days a detailed operation plan for locating and bringing to justice" Osama Bin Laden." -- so says a piece in Slate, whose leitmotif is that with the killing of Osama, President Obama has answered Conservative critics who have accused him of masterly inactivity.

6:05 pm: How does al Qaeda operate? Knowing the answer to that question is important in any analysis of what next after Osama. In that vein, here is a clip from a Foreign Affairs story:
"In times of sustained pressure, al Qaeda has delegated significant responsibility for external operations against the United States to its branch, AQAP. The first such action came in late 2002, when al Qaeda had exhausted its existing supply of operatives for external operations and was in the process of rebuilding its capacity from its sanctuary in Pakistan. Al Qaeda asked AQAP to carry out an attack on U.S. interests; AQAP devised a plot against U.S. subways and got permission to use a chemical device. (In 2003, just before putting the plan into action, AQAP asked al Qaeda for final signoff but was denied.) When the pressure on al Qaeda eased between 2003 and 2006, because the United States was focusing less on Afghanistan, the group was able to regenerate its capacity and intensify its planning for global operations. But the U.S. drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas has again put pressure on it, and the group has again tapped AQAP to undertake external operations. It has also made similar requests of its franchises, particularly AQI. In 2008, for example, it asked AQI to carry out attacks against Danish interests in retaliation for a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

When subsidiaries do carry out attacks outside their territories, al Qaeda requires that they be conducted within set parameters. For example, al Qaeda heavily encourages suicide attacks and repeated strikes on preapproved classes of targets, such as public transportation, government buildings, and vital infrastructure. Once a location has been authorized, the branch and the franchises are free to pursue plots against it. But al Qaeda still emphasizes the need to consult the central leadership before undertaking large-scale plots, plots directed against a new location or a new class of targets, and plots utilizing a tactic that has not been previously sanctioned, such as the use of chemical, biological, or radiological devices.

Al Qaeda has put these requirements in place to ensure that attacks complement, not undermine, its strategic objectives. Whereas AQAP appears to honor al Qaeda's authority, at times the franchises have acted on their own; AQI's unapproved bombings of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, in 2005, for example, earned it a strong rebuke from headquarters. And a range of factors influence whether a franchise will attack an external target when al Qaeda asks it to. Chief among them is the franchise's capacity and whether the franchise is willing to dedicate resources to external operations instead of local activities. Another factor is the closeness of the ties between the subsidiary and the central organization; the tighter the ties, the more likely the request will be honored. AQI has a closer relationship with al Qaeda than AQIM. Still, AQIM has generally cooperated at least with requests to stay on message and present the image of a united and hierarchical organization. This emphasis on a unified appearance was clear when, in November 2010, AQIM's leader, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, announced that France would have to negotiate directly with bin Laden for the release of hostages held by AQIM. Although in recent times, the capacity of both franchises has been weakened by intensified couterterrorism efforts against them, neither has shown any signs of abandoning al Qaeda's global agenda in favor of purely local goals."

6:00 pm:
A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website taken May 2, 2011 shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased.
From two favorite magazines, a compendium of Osama/al Qaeda stories: The New Yorker, and Foreign Policy . Every one of these is a must read, so there goes the rest of your evening.

5:48 pm:
'Run with the hare, hunt with the hounds' gets a whole new definition thanks to Pervez Musharraf -- who in his initial reaction called the killing of Osama bin Laden a victory for the Pakistan people, and said Osama had masterminded the killings of many Pakistanis, and who also says that he would not have permitted the operation that ended in Osama's killing. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?

5:40 pm:
This is what commentators on CNN are saying about the possibility of revenge attacks: The Jehadist community has been in disarray following the democratic uprising in Egypt and other Arab countries, and the killing of Osama may not generate much sympathy for his cause. The channel is also showing footage of celebrations in Washington and New York. Thousands of Americans, waving flags, are expressing joy at the killing of the man who masterminded the 9/11 attacks.

5:30 pm:
Osama bin Laden was marked for death the day American spies learnt about a trusted courier of the man the US had hunted for years, the New York Times reported. The courier was painstakingly traced to the compound in Abbottabad near the Pakistani capital where the Al Qaeda leader finally met his death.

5:20 pm:
Remember the Hydra? The mythical monster Hercules confronted, only to find that when you cut off one head, two grow in its place? That myth could well define life after Osama bin Laden, experts tell CNN. Quote:

"Standing behind bin Laden for more than two decades has been an ideological army that stretches around the world, where militants have set up their own al Qaeda franchises," analysts said. "He was very good at coming up with messages that would unify al Qaeda," said Paul Cruickshank, a CNN analyst for terrorism and an alumni fellow at the New York University's Center on Law and Security. "Now, without bin Laden, they will likely lose some of that unity.

"That loss could make room for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest political opposition party in many Arab states, and Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, to gain traction, Spiegel said."

Incidentally, Hamas has already condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden in an "official" statement.

5:10 pm:
Reuters reports that Pakistan Taliban threaten attacks on Pakistani leaders, army and US after Osama bin Laden's killing.

5:02 pm:
In their breathless rush to capture events as they moved along at breakneck pace, more than one media anchor this morning mixed up Osama and Obama, producing comments on the order of "the killing of Obama in a mansion in Pakistan." From that light, the opening of this David Remnick piece in the New Yorker is especially interesting:

"As a fledgling politician in Chicago, Barack Obama  was advised more than once by consultants that he might want to consider changing his name-all three of them, in fact. "Barry" would be a great deal less foreign-sounding than Barack, one media consultant told him, and "Hussein" was a middle name reminiscent, for many, of an Iraqi tyrant and worth consigning to oblivion. As for his last name, well, to carry around a perfect rhyme for the most notorious terrorist in the world was a political liability beyond imagining. In the post 9/11 world, "Obama" was a cheap tabloid pun waiting to happen. Nevertheless, the young South Side politician ignored the advice, won a U.S. Senate seat, in 2004, and took the oath of office as President on January 20, 2009 using the same name that appears on his Hawaiian birth documents (both the long and short versions): Barack Hussein Obama, II."

4:55 pm:
A hero to some?: WSJ reports on Chinese reactions to the killing of Osama bin Laden -- and surprisingly, those reactions include regret and a sense of mourning over the passing of a 'hero'. Are the Chinese seeing something the rest of the world is not?

4:45 pm:
Journalism is no longer the prerogative of journalists (and a good thing too, some might say). Case in point, Shoaib Athar, the Abbottabad-based IT consultant who, without realizing exactly what was going on, was the first to tweet of the attack on Osama bin Laden's mansion and who, in the aftermath, now finds himself famous. Consider this: when he went to bed on the night of April 30, he had 751 followers. At the time of writing this, he has 24,838 followers, and counting. His Twitter stream is a dramatic indication of what presence at a venue where major news is breaking, and the presence of mind to post a running narrative on Twitter, can do. Consider these two tweets:

"I'm sorry to all the MSM journalists trying to reach me via phone/email etc. for not being able to reply to their queries individually."

"Reuters got to me before I could go to sleep."

And finally, this post, in exasperated vein:

"Bin Laden is dead. I didn't kill him. Please let me sleep now."

6:18 pm:

5:54 pm:

4:40 pm:
In its analysis of the fallout of bin Laden's death, the New York Times suggests that tensions between the United States and Pakistan could now escalate. Significantly, it also questions whether the $1 billion in annual US aid, given to Pakistan for "anti-terrorism activities", will now continue. Relevant quote:

"The presence of Bin Laden in Pakistan, something Pakistani officials have long dismissed, goes to the heart of the lack of trust Washington has felt over the last 10 years with its contentious ally, the Pakistani military and its powerful spy partner, the Inter-Services Intelligence.

With Bin Laden's death, perhaps the central reason for an alliance forged on the ashes of 9/11 has been removed, at a moment when relations between the countries are already at one of their lowest points as their strategic interests diverge over the shape of a post-war Afghanistan.

For nearly a decade, the United States has paid Pakistan more than $1 billion a year for counterterrorism operations whose chief aim was the killing or capture of Bin Laden, who slipped across the border from Afghanistan after the American invasion.

The circumstance of Bin Laden's death may not only jeopardize that aid, but will also no doubt deepen suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader."

4:29 pm:
An Information Technology consultant in a small town in Pakistan has become the latest Twitter celebrity following an all-night live-tweeting session on the sudden appearance of a helicopter, loud bangs and gunfire which signalled the end of the world's most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

4:20 pm:

The world is now convinced Pakistan helped Osama hide, but those associated with Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's official spy agency, are still in denial. Former ISI chief Hamid Gul said it was wrong to say that the Pakistani establishment had 'harboured' Osama bin Laden.  When a TV channel asked him about the suspicious high-wall mansion in which Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, Gul said high-wall compounds were common in Quetta and Abbottabad. "Pathans usually build huge compound walls," he said. Gul revealed that he had met Laden in 1993 at a conference in Sudan, but had never met him in Pakistan. 4:10 pm: Another gem from Musharraf: "I would like to commend ISI for their achievement with American intelligence for finally spotting and getting Osama".

4:03 pm:
The statements that emerge from the political class can sometime befuddle. Witness this salvo, from BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

"We demand that all the terrorists responsible for terror attacks from across the border must be handed over to India. It is a litmus test for Pakistan. Government of India must acknowledge this fact in all future talks with Pakistan. He was killed in Pakistan, almost in the backyard of its capital, Islamabad. This is the final confirmation of the hard fact that Pakistan remains the epicentre of global terror where terrorism and terrorists both are allowed to be encouraged and given shelter."

Unexceptionable, so far. But then comes this little number: "For US, Pakistan is a valuable ally, the fact that it did not share campaign against terror with Pakistani establishment is surprising. US should reflect on it."

Really? The US clearly did not share operational details with anyone -- least of all Pakistan, where it is no secret that the political, military and intelligence communities contain secret sympathizers of the various terrorist groups -- in order to preserve secrecy and surprise. What precisely is the US supposed to "reflect on", again?
 Osama bin Laden taunted and defied the United States in a series of audio and occasional video messages for nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Following are highlights from some of the several dozen statements released by the al Qaeda leader.
Oct. 7, 2001 - Bin Laden taunts "infidel" U.S. President George W. Bush over Sept. 11 attacks; says in a videotape shown by Al Jazeera that United States will not live in peace until Palestinians can do the same.
Dec. 13 - Bin Laden says he was optimistic about Sept. 11 attacks but dared not hope they would bring down World Trade Center towers, according to video that the United States says confirms his guilt.
Sept. 10, 2002 - Al Jazeera runs audiotape it says is bin Laden praising Sept. 11 attackers as men who changed history.
Feb. 11, 2003 - Message believed to be from bin Laden urges Muslims to fight U.S. and repel any war against Iraq.
Sept. 10 - Al Jazeera airs video of bin Laden and al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri descending mountainside calling for jihad and praising the 9/11 hijackers.
April 15, 2004 - Arab TV airs bin Laden audiotape offering truce to Europeans if they withdraw troops from Muslim nations.
May 6 - Recording purportedly from bin Laden calls for jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
Oct. 30 - Days before the U.S. presidential election, bin Laden in a video tells Americans Bush has deceived them and the United States could face more strikes like Sept. 11.
Dec. 27 - Bin Laden in an audiotape urges Iraqis to boycott January parliamentary elections and says anyone who takes part would be an "infidel".
July 6, 2006 - A year after bombings in London which killed 52 people, al Qaeda issues a video with comments from Zawahri, bin Laden and one bomber.
Sept. 7, 2007 - Bin Laden appears in his first videotape in nearly three years to mark the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In a message to the American people, he says the U.S. is vulnerable despite its economic and military power.
March 19, 2008 - In an audio recording, bin Laden threatens the European Union with grave punishment over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
May 16, 2008 - Bin Laden, in an audiotape addressed to "Western peoples", calls for the fight against Israel to continue and says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of the Muslim battle with the West.
Jan. 14, 2009 - Bin Laden, in an audiotape, calls for a new jihad over Gaza and says the global financial crisis has exposed the decline of U.S. influence in world affairs.
June 3, 2009 - Bin Laden says in an audio message that U.S. President Barack Obama has planted the seeds of "revenge and hatred towards America" in the Muslim world.
Sept. 14, 2009 - Bin Laden says it is time for Americans to free themselves from the grip of neo-conservatives and the Israeli lobby.
Jan. 24, 2010 - A bin Laden audiotape aired on Al Jazeera claims responsibility for the attempted bombing of a U.S.-bound plane on Dec. 25, 2009.
March 25, 2010 - In an audiotape aired on Al Jazeera, bin Laden threatens to kill any Americans taken prisoner by al Qaeda if accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is put to death by U.S. authorities.
Oct. 1 and 2, 2010 - Audiotapes attributed to bin Laden call for action on climate change and for Muslims around the world to help victims of the Pakistan floods.
Jan. 21 2011 - In an audio recording, bin Laden says that the release of French hostages in Niger depends on France's soldiers leaving Muslim lands, Al Jazeera reports.
May 2, 2011 - Bin Laden is killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces.

 The killing of Osama bin Laden in a firefight with U.S. forces in a Pakistani town on Sunday caps a series of al Qaeda leaders captured or killed in the country since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Here are some of the other top militants hunted down in Pakistan, a country at the centre of the fight against Islamist militants.
* Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged operational mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was captured in a 2003 raid on a house in the Pakistani garrison city of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad.
* Ramzi bin al-Shibh, described as a key facilitator of the Sept.11 attacks, was arrested in September 2002.
* Abu Zubaydah, who is thought to have served as Bin Laden's field commander, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002.
* Libyan-born Abu Laith al Libi, a top al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan, was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan's North Waziristan in January 2008.
* Sheikh Said Masri, an Egyptian believed to have acted as the operational leader of al Qaeda, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the Pakistani northwest in May 2010. Masri, also known as Mustafa Abu Yazid, was thought to have been the key conduit to Bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri.


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