Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where's Osama?

Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has threatened a terrorist attack on Britain because of the decision to give Salman Rushdie a knighthood. Predictably enough, Downing Street says it won't give in to such warnings. The audio tape turned up on an Islamist website, and is the latest in a series by al-Zawahiri over the last few years. Leaving aside the whole debate about Rushdie and how serious this threat is, there's another question - where's al-Zawahiri's boss?

We haven't seen Osama bin Laden in two and a half years. The last video message he gave was broadcast shortly before the US Presidential election of November 2004. There's been the odd audio message since then, as well as videos containing re-hashed bits of old footage, but nothing we can say for sure is definitely new.

So why so shy? It could be that Osama bin Laden is actually dead, although I can't help thinking we'd have heard about it if that was the case. Not least because al-Zawahiri and others would no doubt fancy taking the top job for themselves.

It's more likely he's now so worried about using any form of communication, including satellite phones and the like, he just moves between various remote hiding places without ever talking to anyone outside his close clique. And that clique may now be very small indeed, to avoid any kind of infiltration. It was tracking of communications and infiltration that did for the much more media-visible ex-leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It may be we'll only ever hear firm news about Osama bin Laden one more time - when he's finally killed, or just dies.

1 comment:

Gary said...

I don't know, it makes sense to me to have an invisible head for your terrorist group when you're actually the guy who's running it. Maybe that's just sneaky American thinking.