Bin Laden’s death unlikely to affect Al-Qaeda operations; connections in Egypt lost, say analysts

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CAIRO: The Al-Qaeda terrorist organization has lost all of its connections and bases in Egypt over the past decade, and the death of its leader Osama bin Laden on Monday will not have a significant impact on its activities in the region, analysts said.

“Al-Qaeda’s impact [in the region in general] started to diminish two years ago. The network’s leader Osama bin Laden’s death will be a major step towards this downfall,” independent researcher of Islamist movements Hossam Tammam told Daily News Egypt on Monday.

Bin Laden was holed up in a two-story house 100 yards from a Pakistani military academy when four helicopters carrying US anti-terror forces swooped in the early morning hours of Monday and killed him.

Flames rose Monday from the building that was the apparent target of the raid as it was confirmed that the world’s most wanted fugitive died not in a cave, but in a town best known as a garrison for the Pakistani military. A US official said one of bin Laden’s sons was also killed in the raid along with three others, but the official did not name the son or the others killed.

Pakistani officials and a witness said bin Laden’s guards opened fire from the roof of the building, and one of the choppers crashed. The sound of at least two explosions rocked the small northwestern town of Abbottabad where the Al-Qaeda chief made his last stand. The US said no Americans were harmed in the raid.

The US would have taken Osama bin Laden alive if he had given himself up, an American official said Monday.

"He resisted during the firefight. As a result, the operators on the ground killed him. They were prepared in the event of his surrender to take him alive," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Tammam said Al-Qaeda’s "collapse took place on three levels. First the organizational one as most of Al-Qaeda’s frontline leaderships have been either killed or arrested by US forces.”

"The second level has to do with the fact that Al-Qaeda totally withdrew from influential areas in the center of the Islamic world like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, retreating to marginalized Islamic countries like Somalia, Chad and Mali," he added.

The group’s discourse lost its attractive outlook ahead of youth revolts erupting in the Arab world, he added.

"Al-Qaeda does not have a vision for a strong political project in addition to the fact that it completely destroyed the social systems in the countries they operated in by inciting sectarian tensions like the case with Iraq," he explained.

Among the six predominantly Muslim nations surveyed by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, bin Laden received his highest level of support in the Palestinian territories — although even there only 34 percent said they had confidence in the terrorist leader to do the right thing in world affairs.

Minorities of Muslims in Indonesia (25 percent), Egypt (22 percent) and Jordan (13 percent) also expressed confidence in bin Laden, while he had almost no support among Turkish (3 percent) or Lebanese Muslims (1 percent).

In Pakistan, where the 2011 data is still not available, confidence in bin Laden fell from 52 percent in 2005 to just 18 percent in last year’s survey.

Tammam predicted that Egypt’s Ayman Al-Zawahri would be Al-Qaeda’s next leader if he did not get injured during the US crackdown on bin Laden.

John Drake, a risk consultant at AKE Ltd, agreed with Tammam at some point.

“Al-Qaeda’s [inspired] movements in the Middle East and North Africa have evolved into very distinct structures over recent years,” Drake told DNE.

“They took inspiration from key Al-Qaeda figures such as bin Laden. But from an operational perspective, they are highly independent, organizing their own tactics, logistics and targeting,” Drake said, adding that the death of bin Laden is therefore unlikely to alter the frequency and severity of terrorist group’s attacks in the region.

Drake further said that protests currently erupting in several Arab countries have removed dictators who used to provide the ideal recruiting grounds for Al-Qaeda.

“With the removal of the regimes — particularly those seen as overly allied to the West — Al-Qaeda will have less to rally against, which makes it harder to recruit followers and [find] financial sponsors,” he explained.

According to Drake, whoever succeeds bin Laden will have difficulty emulating his appeal to jihadists.

“He has been the symbolic face of the Al-Qaeda movement for years, not least since the Sept. 11 attacks almost a decade ago. It is arguable that anyone will ever be able to match that kind of publicity,” he explained.

Despite the US confirmation, several Islamist groups whether in Egypt or abroad remained skeptical about the death of bin Laden.

A spokesman for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan said the insurgent group was waiting for complete information on what happened in Pakistan before issuing any comment.

Egypt’s Al-Jama’a Al-Islamiya (the Islamist Group) said in statement that they would only comment about his death after it was verified.

Former deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) said the group has no confirmation yet about whether bin Laden truly died.

“In general, the group rejects and denounces any acts of violence against civilians regardless of their identities, culture or religion,” Mohamed Habib told DNE.

“Al-Qaeda recurrently criticized all Islamist groups including the MB for rejecting violence,” he added.

Drake believed that if the Egypt-born Al-Zawahri, second-in-command of Al-Qaeda, succeeds bin Laden, his attention will undoubtedly be on Egypt.

“It is not just because it is Al-Zawahri’s homeland. Rather, Egypt is now the crux of political change in the Middle East that fundamentally opposes the appeal of the Al-Qaeda movement,” Drake said, adding that the Arab people’s call for democratic reform is not supported by the terrorist network.

Al-Zawahri has been the brains behind bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and at times its most public face, repeatedly denouncing the United States and its allies in video and audio messages delivered to broadcasters worldwide.

On April 15, Al-Zawahri had described, in a video recording, the January 25 Revolution in Egypt as a popular revolt that ended up as a military coup.

Al-Zawahri fiercely criticized the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) saying they were not trustworthy. The SCAF has been ruling Egypt since former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down following an 18-day nationwide uprising demanding his ouster.

"Al-Zawahri’s last recording in April in which he criticized the military council is meaningless. What he is [capable] of doing is to give emotional speeches." Tammam said.

“It would not be of great importance if Al-Zawahri takes over the Al-Qaeda leadership,” he added.

Meanwhile, South Sinai governor Mohamed Abdel-Fadeel Shousha said extreme security measures have been undertaken by the police and army forces to secure the entrances and exits of the governorate, fearing a possible Al-Qaeda attack in response to the killing of bin Laden.

Shousha added that hotels and resorts in Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh cities and the borders with the Gaza Strip and Israel have also been safeguarded by the forces already deployed in South Sinai.

A security source said, on condition of anonymity, a number of Israeli tourist groups left the governorate in a hurry after receiving warnings from Israel following the death of bin Laden.

A string of terrorist attacks hit tourist places in South Sinai in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Security has been tightened at the Cairo International Airport, especially with flights heading to New York.

Press reports said Egyptian authorities have also intensified security measures around the US and British embassies in downtown Cairo. –Additional reporting by Tamim Elyan and Hatem El-Buluk for Daily News Egypt and Agencies.


This undated aerial handout image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces in Pakistan killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/CIA)



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