Osama is dead: The ideology lives

People look at a display of newspaper front pages at the Newseum in Washington on May 2, 2011, the day after Osama bin Laden was killed. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP photo)
 by Maloy Krishna Dhar 

(May 17, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Amidst global euphoria about the physical elimination of Osama bin Laden in a palatial building at Abbottabad, nearly 50 kilometer away from Rawalpindi/Islamabad, as the crow files and about 400 meters away from the Burn Hill Military College (Kakol) of Pakistan army it may be remembered that Osama was a Frankenstein created by the CIA, Royal Saudi intelligence and the Inter Services Intelligence.

Osama, said to be a MBA and engineer was inclined to religion and restoration of strict Sharia rule as urged by the Wahhabis. His religious fanaticism converged with more hardcore philosophy of Sayyed Qutb (Quotbism) of Egypt. After leaving college in 1979, bin Laden was activated by Royal Saudi Intelligence in consultation with the CIA to join anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. The same year he arrived at Pakistan and joined Abdullah Azzam (an Egyptian Islamist) to take part in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. During Operation Cyclone, a code name for US backed war, from 1979 to 1989; the United States provided financial aid and weapons to the mujahideen leaders through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Bin Laden met and built relations with General Hamid Gul, who was head of the ISI agency. Although the United States provided the money and weapons, the training of militant groups was entirely done by the Pakistani Armed Forces and the ISI.

By 1984, bin Laden and Azzam established Maktab al-Khadamat, which funneled money, arms and fighters from around the Arab world into Afghanistan. Through al-Khadamat, bin Laden’s inherited family fortune paid for air tickets and accommodation, paid for paperwork with Pakistani authorities and provided other such services for the jihadi fighters. Bin Laden established camps inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and used it to train volunteer fighters.

By 1988, bin Laden had split from Maktab al-Khidamat. While Azzam acted as support for Afghan fighters, bin Laden wanted a more military role. One of the main points leading to the split and the creation of al-Qaeda was Azzam’s insistence that Arab fighters be integrated among the Afghan fighting groups instead of forming a separate fighting force. Notes of a meeting of bin Laden and others on August 20, 1988, indicate al-Qaeda was a formal group by that time: Basically an organized Islamic faction, its goal was to lift the word of God, to make His religion victorious.

Following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia in 1990 as a hero of jihad, who along with his Arab legion “had brought down the mighty superpower” of the Soviet Union. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait under Saddam Hussein on August 2, 1990 put the Saudi kingdom and the House of Saud at risk, with Iraqi forces on the Saudi border and Saddam’s appeal to pan-Arabism potentially inciting internal dissent. Bin Laden met with King Fahd, and Saudi Defense Minister Sultan, telling them not to depend on non-Muslim assistance from the United States and others, offering to help defend Saudi Arabia with his mujahideen. Bin Laden’s offer was rebuffed, and after the Saudi monarchy invited the deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi territory, Osama publicly denounced Saudi Arabia’s dependence on the U.S. military. Osama believed the presence of foreign troops in the “land of the two mosques” (Mecca and Medina) profaned sacred soil. Bin Laden’s criticism of the Saudi monarchy led that government to attempt to silence him.

Shortly after Saudi Arabia invited U.S. troops into Saudi Arabia, bin Laden turned his attention to attacks on the West. On November 8, 1990, the FBI raided the New Jersey home of El Sayyid Nosair, an associate of al-Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed, discovering copious evidence of terrorist plots, including plans to blow up New York City skyscrapers. This marked the earliest discovery of al-Qaeda terrorist plans outside of Muslim countries. Nosair was eventually convicted in connection to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and later admitted guilt for the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York on November 5, 1990. (For other details readers may like to read my book Fulcrum of Evil: ISI, CIA Al Qaeda Nexus). These skeletal details leave no doubt that Osama was a joint creation of Royal Saudi Intelligence, the CIA and the ISI.

It is also a known fact that after 9/11 Mullah Omar (Taliban) had agreed to hand over Osama to the USA to avert US military action against Afghanistan. President Bush denied the offer and to prove American machismo he invaded Afghanistan. The American people have paid heavily for unnecessary military actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Libya. If weighed impassionedly, minus the temporary euphoria of killing the middle aged, ailing and fading symbol of jihad, the American people should understand that their leaders like Bush, warmongering Secretary of States and Defense Secretaries have pushed the country on the verge of military hegemonism.

America has eliminated its enemy number one not in the frightening ridges of Hindukush, not in any cave in Afghanistan, but in a fairly big city of Pakistan, Abbottabad, where he was living in a specially built haveli since 2005. Was it possible for Osama to stay near the defense training college without knowledge of Pakistan? Pakistan’s Foreign Minister says, “The Government of Pakistan recognizes that the death of Osama bin Ladin is an important milestone in fight against terrorism and that the Government of Pakistan and its state institutions have been making serious efforts to bring him to justice.
However, the Government of Pakistan categorically denies the media reports suggesting that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against Osama bin Ladin carried out in the early hours of 2nd May 2011.

Abbottabad and the surrounding areas have been under sharp focus of intelligence agencies since 2003 resulting in highly technical operation by ISI which led to the arrest of high value Al Qaeda target in 2004. As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009. The intelligence flow indicating some foreigners in the surroundings of Abbottabad, continued till mid April 2011. It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Ladin, a fact also acknowledged by the US President and Secretary of State, in their statements. It is also important to mention that CIA and some other friendly intelligence agencies have benefitted a great deal from the intelligence provided by ISI. ISI’s own achievements against Al Qaeda and in War on Terror are more than any other intelligence agency in the World.”

He stated that high walled buildings were common in the frontier region, for safety as well as for ensuring privacy of the families. Such a labored statement from Pakistan’s foreign minister provides only an inadequate apology mainly to please the people of Pakistan. On the other hand White House Advisor Mr. John Brennan who, while replying to a question said, “We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace. At the time, the Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets. Clearly, we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they didn’t know who were on those jets. They had no idea about who might have been on there, whether it be US or somebody else. So, we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces. This operation was designed to minimize the prospects, the chances of engagement with Pakistani forces. It was done very well, and thankfully no Pakistani forces were engaged and there were no other individuals who were killed aside from those on the compound.”
This contradicts the statement of Pakistani PM, Yusaf Raza Gilani, President Zardari and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. There are speculatory comments that a Pakistani doctor had sold the land to a person appearing to be from Waziristan area. The Canadian media has reported that house was built over six years. This may not be a correct input. Most probably, as some Pakistani sources indicate, the house was built with the assistance of Jaish-e-Mohammad. Maulana Masood Azhar did not have the capability of installing all the security equipments that were fitted to detect violation of the premises by any intruder. How this could be done without knowledge of the ISI. It is also inferred that the premises belonged to the Inter Services Intelligence. Osama lived in the house with his family and several guards. Was it possible that Pakistan Army and the ISI were involved in a conspiracy to provide shelter Osama and use him as a bargain with the USA over negations with the Taliban and Karzai government in Afghanistan?

Shahid Zaved Burki, Pakistan’s former finance minister and former vice-president of the World Bank commented in an article, “That question cannot be answered without knowing definitively where Pakistan stands in regard to Islamist terrorism. Bin Laden was killed in an operation that did not involve Pakistani forces, but that may (or may not) have involved the country’s intelligence community. The fact that bin Laden had lived in the heart of Abbottabad (where I was schooled as a boy), about 40 miles north of Islamabad, in a mansion built over a period of six years, and had moved in and out of it several times a year, raises troubling questions about the Pakistani military’s possible complicity.

Did the army, or senior officers, know that bin Laden was living in their midst? If so, what was their purpose in letting him use so conspicuous a hiding place practically next door to a prominent military installation?

It is extraordinary to even consider that Pakistan’s military high command could have tolerated bin Laden’s presence, given that he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, his second-in-command, had declared war on Pakistan. Indeed, terrorist attacks directed or inspired by bin Laden have killed thousands of people in a number of large Pakistani cities. Some of these attacks targeted military installations, including the military’s headquarters in Rawalpindi, not far from Abbottabad.
In answering these questions, it would be helpful to know if the Pakistani intelligence community provided any aid at all to the US effort to locate Bin Laden’s hideout. Or was Pakistan’s military using bin Laden as a pawn in its relations with the US? Did the Pakistanis allow bin Laden to hide in the hope of using him as a bargaining chip in the endgame for Afghanistan? Had that moment arrived, leading to bin Laden’s exposure and death? There are no immediate answers to such questions — not even in the op-ed written by President Asif Ali Zardari for The Washington Post within hours of bin Laden’s death. But answers will emerge as more details about the operation become known.”

What is known is that bin Laden’s demise came at a moment when relations between the CIA and Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, had sunk to an all-time low. Senior leaders from both sides sought to save the relationship from total rupture. Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of the ISI, took a day trip to Washington, DC, and spent four hours meeting with CIA Director Leon Panetta. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, then went to Islamabad, where he met the commander of the Pakistani army for several hours. Later, on a visit to Afghanistan, Mullen expressed frustration with the ISI, and it is now clear that he already knew when he met the Pakistanis that an attack on Bin Laden’s compound was imminent.

Pakistanis fear that, with the US planning to exit, Afghanistan will become their problem. One way to ensure that a friendly regime holds sway in Kabul after the US withdrawal would be to introduce into the governing structure a group with close ties to Pakistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, the group of fighters led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, one of the mujahideen leaders who fought to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, could serve that purpose. Two decades ago, Haqqani and several other warlords were funded and trained by Pakistan and the US working together. The Haqqani group has maintained good relations with ISI. Complicating the situation, however, is the fact that the Haqqanis are operating out of North Waziristan, one of the tribal agencies located in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is fiercely opposed to the presence of America and NATO troops in their country.

Some fearless and bold journalists in Pakistan have also commented that the suspicion of ISI-Osama link could not be ruled out. Nazam Shetty, editor of Daily Times (03.05.11) commented that: “Pakistan has found itself in quite the embarrassing situation. Osama bin Laden was found in a military town just a mile or so away from the Kakul Military Academy. How he was able to hide there without any action on our part is going to be a hard sell to the Americans. So far, we have been milking the same excuse: joint intelligence and a willingness on our part in counter-terror operations led to this victory. Scratching beneath the surface may reveal other truths entirely. Whilst we have been allies of the US, we have been very trying partners, picking and choosing the militants we wanted to root out and the ones we wanted to protect. No doubt, in the coming days, Pakistan’s exact role in the war on terror and Osama’s death will become clearer. It is hoped we will not be on the receiving end of a negative fallout with the Americans, who are in this war for the long haul.”

The USA on the other hand has openly pronounced that it did not inform Pakistan fearing ISI black trick and spiriting away of Osama. They have also asked Pakistan to prove that they had no knowledge of the presence of Osama at Abbottabad, 50 km away from the capital city and 400 meters away from an important military installation. It may also be noted that the ISI has a strong detachment in Abbottabad headed by an officer of the rank of a superintendant of police (a major of Pakistan Army). How can a notorious terrorist live in a grandiose house within 500 meters of the ISI detachment in a country where trees cannot shed leaves without ISI permission?

Political analysts have started speculating that with Osama’s death the USA might restructure its strategic presence in Afghanistan. The Pakhtun led Taliban movement not only wants to capture political power and establish an Islamic Emirate, they also want Tajik and Uzbek presence minimized in their country. Pakistan wants USA to withdraw from Afghanistan facilitating larger Pakistani presence in that country as a geopolitical of strategic depth in the event of any war with India. Pakistan can nuke one or two cities of India, but India can wipe out entire Pakistan as the country has very little territorial depth. With Afghanistan in its orbit Pakistan can spread influence in Tajik and Uzbek areas and other areas of Central Asian countries. Pakistan expects USA to withdraw its presence from Afghanistan before Barack Obama approaches the second term election. He will be the President to bring the boys back home.

This speculation does not appear to be correct. The USA and the world are painfully aware that Pakistan is the topmost breeding ground of Islamic terrorism. It had created Harkat ul Mujahideen, Al Badr, Harkat ul Ansar and later it conceived jointly with al Qaeda the creation of Harkat ul Jihad Islami and Lashkar e Tayba. In addition to Tehrik e Taliban, Pakistan, Jaish e Mohammad there exist Lashkar al Tauhid wal Jihad, Lashkar e Jhangvi etc terrorist outfits. Most of these organizations are now likely to target Pakistani government installations with greater agility and preparation. Pakistan has been exporting Jihad to South East Asian countries, Bangladesh, India, China and African and European countries. The American continent has also been invaded by terrorists of Pakistani origin. Fully aware of the fact that these groups, in tandem with al Qaeda are likely to target US and western interests globally, the United States is not likely to go for total troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and relax its grips on Pakistan.

The US operation against Osama was planned meticulously at the political and agency levels. The CIA operators in Abbottabad had kept the suspected house for nearly a year and obtained a definite clue about Osama’s presence in Pakistan after interrogating a courier of the al Qaeda leader. He was painstakingly pursued by the US operatives and his regular entry and exit from the house. After being tipped off by one of the 9/11 detainees to the courier’s relationship with Osama, the US searched for him for years, believing his name to be Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. It wasn’t until Ahmed spoke on the phone some distance away from the compound to someone being tapped from the US, that they knew they had the rough area for bin Laden’s lair. The US tapped one of his calls and traced him to the coordinate of the hiding place of Osama.

The operation was cleared by President Obama on March 14, 2011. The task was assigned to the Navy Seals group. The highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru. The high value target required practice. The Seals replicated the one-acre compound. Trial runs were held in early April.

The DevGru belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command, an extraordinary and unusual collection of classified standing task forces and special-missions units. They report to the president and operate worldwide based on the legal (or extra-legal) premises of classified presidential directives. Though the general public knows about the special SEALs and their brothers in Delta Force, most JSOC missions never leak. One hears about JSOC when something goes bad (a British aid worker is accidentally killed) or when something really big happens (a merchant marine captain is rescued at sea), and even then, the military remains especially sensitive about their existence. Several dozen JSOC operatives have died in Pakistan over the past several years. Their names are released by the Defense Department in the usual manner, but with a cover story — generally, they were killed in training accidents in eastern Afghanistan. That’s the code.

How did the helicopters elude the Pakistani air defense network? Did they spoof transponder codes? Were they painted and tricked out with Pakistan Air Force equipment? If so — and we may never know — two other JSOC units, the Technical Application Programs Office and the Aviation Technology Evaluation Group, were responsible. These truly are the silent squirrels — never getting public credit and not caring one whit. Since 9/11, the JSOC units and their task forces have become the U.S. government’s most effective and lethal weapon against terrorists and their networks, drawing plenty of unwanted, and occasionally unflattering, attention to themselves in the process.

JSOC costs the country more than $1 billion annually. The command has its critics, but it has escaped significant congressional scrutiny and has operated largely with impunity since 9/11. Some of its interrogators and operators were involved in torture and rendition, and the line between its intelligence-gathering activities and the CIA’s has been blurred.
But Sunday’s operation provides strong evidence that the CIA and JSOC work well together. Sometimes intelligence needs to be developed rapidly, to get inside the enemy’s operational loop. And sometimes it needs to be cultivated, grown as if it were delicate bacteria in a petri dish.

In an interview at CIA headquarters two weeks ago, a senior intelligence official said the two proud groups of American secret warriors had been “deconflicted and basically integrated” — finally — 10 years after 9/11. Indeed, according to accounts given to journalists by five senior administration officials Sunday night, the CIA gathered the intelligence that led to bin Laden’s location. A memo from CIA Director Leon Panetta sent Sunday night provides some hints of how the information was collected and analyzed. In it, he thanked the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency for their help. NSA figured out, somehow, that there was no telephone or Internet service in the compound. How it did this without Pakistan’s knowledge is a secret. The NGIA makes the military’s maps but also develops their pattern recognition software — no doubt used to help establish, by February of this year, which the CIA could say with “high probability” that bin Laden and his family were living there.

Recently, JSOC built a new Targeting and Analysis Center in Rosslyn, Va. Where the National Counterterrorism Center tends to focus on threats to the homeland, TAAC, whose existence was first disclosed by the Associated Press, focuses outward, on active “kinetic” — or lethal — counterterrorism missions abroad.

Pakistan’s foreign office and a wounded General Kiyani may fret and fume but the USA has conveyed firmly that if Pakistan failed to contain terrorism on its soil Washington would repeat such raids.

Is the world safer with a dead Osama? The Arab world has heaved a sigh of relief. The western countries are not so sure. The al Qaeda philosophy was not centralized. Several franchisees have sprung up in different parts of the world. In Pakistan the TTP, Jaish e Mohammad and Lashkar al Tauhid wal Jihad are very active. In the Southeast Asia several jihadi organizations in Bangladesh, southern Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines draw inspiration from al Qaeda. In the Arab world Qaeda units are located in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and Morocco. There are sleeper cells in Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the United States. In the Xinjiang province of China the Muslim separatists are inspired by al Qaeda.

What is the future of al Qaeda? The front and 2nd line leaders are still active. They may lie low for a while, but it is expected that they will reactivate the terror network sooner than later. Their operations may not require lavish funding from Osama. Small groups, single operator and bombs will be sufficient to terrorize the world.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, an eye surgeon who helped found the Egyptian Islamic Jihad militant group, is expected to replace Osama Bin Laden as the leader of al-Qaeda. He was already the group’s chief ideologue and was believed by some experts to have been the “operational brains” behind the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.

Zawahiri was number two – behind only Bin Laden – in the 22 “most wanted terrorists” list announced by the US government in 2001 and continues to have a $25m bounty on his head. Zawahiri was reportedly last seen in the eastern Afghan town of Khost in October 2001, and went into hiding after a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban.

He was thought to be hiding in the mountainous regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with the help of sympathetic local tribes. However, the killing of Bin Laden on 1 May 2011 in Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, suggests this may not be the case. His wife and children were reportedly killed in a US air strike in late 2001. Zawahiri was for a time al-Qaeda’s most prominent spokesman, appearing in 40 videos and audiotapes since 2003 – most recently in April 2011 – as the group tried to radicalize and recruit Muslims worldwide. He has also been indicted in the US for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, and was sentenced to death in Egypt in absentia for his activities with Islamic Jihad during the 1990s.

Abu Yahya al-Libi, also known as Hasan Qayid and Yunis al-Sahrawi, is thought to have been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) before he allied himself to Osama Bin Laden. He has since emerged as al-Qaeda’s leading theologian, and most visible face on video, surpassing Ayman al-Zawahri in recent years. Libi is believed to have spent five years as a religious student in Mauritania in the 1990s. He claims he was captured by Pakistani forces in 2002 and then sent to the US military airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan, from where he escaped in July 2005 along with three other al-Qaeda members. Al-Qaeda has named Libi as a field commander in Afghanistan, though he has styled himself in his many videos as a theological scholar, and spoken on a variety of global issues of importance to the group.

Khalid al-Habib, thought to be either Egyptian or Moroccan, was identified in a November 2005 video as al-Qaeda’s field commander in south-east Afghanistan, while Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was named as its commander in the south-west. Habib seems to have assumed overall command after the latter’s capture in 2006. He was described as al-Qaeda’s “military commander” in July 2008. US military officials say he oversees al-Qaeda’s “internal” operations in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Habib may be operating under an assumed identity, according to some analysts. One of his nom de guerre is believed to be Khalid al-Harbi.

In August 2010, the FBI said Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah had taken over as chief of al-Qaeda’s “external operations council”. Having lived for more than 15 years in the US, it is the first time a leader intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks for the group outside Afghanistan. Such a position – once held by the alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – necessitates regular contact with al-Qaeda’s senior leadership and military commanders, and makes him likely to be killed or captured. Born in Saudi Arabia, Shukrijumah moved to the US when his father, a Muslim cleric, took up a post at a mosque in Brooklyn. They later moved to Florida. In the late 1990s, he became convinced that he had to participate in jihad in place like Chechnya, and left for training camps in Afghanistan.
Shukrijumah has been named in a US federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York’s subway system in 2009. He is also suspected of having played a role in plotting al-Qaeda attacks in Panama, Norway and the UK.

A Libyan, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman joined Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager in the 1980s. Since then, he has gained considerable stature in al-Qaeda as an explosives expert and Islamic scholar. He retreated with Bin Laden to the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in late 2001, and has since become a link to other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

In June 2006 the US military recovered a letter he wrote to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who ran al-Qaeda in Iraq, chastising him for alienating rival insurgent groups and attacking Shia Muslims. It warned Zarqawi that he could be replaced if he did not change his ways. He is said to have successfully brokered a formal alliance with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
An Egyptian in his late 30s, Saif al-Adel is the nom de guerre of a former Egyptian army colonel, Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi. He travelled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight Soviet forces with the mujahideen. Adel was once Osama Bin Laden’s security chief, and assumed many of military commander Mohammed Atef’s duties after his death in a US air strike in November 2001.

He is suspected of involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, training the Somali fighters who killed 18 US servicemen in Mogadishu in 1993, and instructing some of the 11 September 2001 hijackers.

Mustafa Hamid, the father-in-law of Saif al-Adel, served as instructor in tactics at an al-Qaeda camp near Jalalabad and is the link between the group and Iran’s government, according to the US. After the fall of the Taliban, he is said to have negotiated the safe relocation of several senior al-Qaeda members and their families to Iran. In mid-2003, Hamid was arrested by the Iranian authorities.

Saad Bin Laden, one of Osama Bin Laden’s sons, has been involved in al-Qaeda activities. In late 2001, he helped his relatives flee to Iran. He made key decisions for al-Qaeda and was part of a small group of al-Qaeda members involved in managing the organization from Iran, according to US officials. He was arrested by Iranian authorities in early 2003, but recent reports say he may have been released and made his way to northern Pakistan. US officials said an “adult son” of Osama Bin Laden’s was killed alongside him in the raid in Abbottabad in May 2011. It is not known if it was Saad.

Hamza al-Jawfi, a Gulf Arab, is believed by some to have become al-Qaeda’s external operations chief after the death of Abu Ubaida al-Masri from hepatitis C in December 2007. However, the FBI has said this year that Adnan el Shukrijumah had assumed this role.

Matiur Rehman is a Pakistani militant who has been identified as al-Qaeda’s planning chief. He is said to have been an architect of the foiled “liquid bomb” plot to explode passenger aircraft over the Atlantic in 2006.

Little is known about Abu Khalil al-Madani, who was identified as a member of al-Qaeda’s Shura council in a July 2008 video. His name suggests he is Saudi.

An Egyptian chemist, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Omar has allegedly overseen al-Qaeda’s efforts to develop chemical and biological weapons. Also known as Abu Khabab, he left Egypt to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. A fellow mujahideen says he was slow to join al-Qaeda because he disagreed with the group’s central strategy and was not an ally of Ayman al-Zawahiri, but changed his mind in part because he needed the money. Mursi was a trainer at al-Qaeda’s Derunta camp in Afghanistan when it was set up in the late 1990s. In addition to teaching courses on conventional explosives, he wrote manuals on how to make toxic weapons and conducted a variety of experiments as part of Project al-Zabadi, or “curdled milk”.

The US believes he may be living in Pakistan, although other reports suggest he escaped to the Pankisi Gorge in the Caucasus region in 2001. US intelligence officials do not believe he occupies a senior leadership position.

Fahd al-Quso is wanted in connection with the 2000 bomb attack on the USS Cole in Aden, which resulted in the deaths of 17 US sailors. In April 2003, he was being held by the Yemeni authorities in connection with the attack when he escaped. He was recaptured 11 months later, but was released from prison early in 2007 despite US protests. It was thought that he was still in Yemen, but reports say he may have been killed by a US drone strike in September in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

Adam Gadahn, a US citizen who grew up in California, has emerged as a high-profile propagandist for al-Qaeda, appearing in a string of videos. After converting to Islam as a teenager, he moved in 1998 to Pakistan and married an Afghan refugee. Gadahn performed translations for al-Qaeda and become associated with al-Qaeda’s captured field commander, Abu Zubaydah. He is also thought to have later trained at a militant camp in Afghanistan. In 2004, the US justice department named him as one of seven al-Qaeda operatives planning imminent attacks on the US. Shortly afterwards, he appeared in a video on behalf of al-Qaeda, identifying himself as “Azzam the American”.

In September 2006, he appeared in a video with Ayman al-Zawahiri and exhorted his fellow Americans to convert to Islam and support al-Qaeda. The next month, Gadahn become the first US citizen to be charged with treason since World War II. The indictment said he had “knowingly adhered to an enemy of the United States… with intent to betray the United States”. A $1m bounty was placed on his head. Analysts say Gadahn is not part of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, and does not hold any operational or ideological significance.

Wuhayshi, a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, is the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was formed in 2009 in a merger between two offshoots of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. US counter-terrorism officials have said it is the “most active operation franchise” of al-Qaeda beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan. Wuhayshi, who is from the southern Yemeni governorate of al-Baida, spent time in religious institutions before travelling to Afghanistan in the late 1990s. He fought at the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, before escaping over the border into Iran, where he was eventually arrested. He was extradited to Yemen in 2003.

In February 2006, Wuhayshi and 22 other suspected al-Qaeda members managed to escape from a prison in Sanaa. Among them were also Jamal al-Badawi, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, and Qasim al-Raymi, al-Qaeda’s in the Arabian Peninsula’s military commander. After their escape from prison, Wuhayshi and Raymi are said to have overseen the formation of al-Qaeda in Yemen, which took in both new recruits and Arab fighters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The group claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks that killed six Western tourists before being linked to the assault on the US embassy in Sanaa in 2008, in which 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians died. It later said it was behind the attempt to blow up a US passenger jet as it flew into Detroit on 25 December 2009. A Nigerian man charged in relation with the incident said AQAP operatives had trained him.

A radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, Awlaki has been linked to a series of attacks and plots across the world – from 11 September 2001 to the shootings at Fort Hood in November 2009. Since going on the run in Yemen in December 2007, Awlaki’s overt endorsement of violence as a religious duty in his sermons and on the internet is thought to have inspired new recruits to Islamist militancy. US officials say he is also a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of the militant network in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and helped recruit Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up an airliner as it flew into Detroit on 25 December 2009.

A former university science student and infamous bomb-maker, Abdelwadoud is the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). He became leader of the head of the Algerian Islamist militant organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), in mid-2004, succeeding Nabil Sahraoui after he was killed in a major army operation. After university in 1995, Abdelwadoud joined the Armed Islamist Group (GIA), a precursor to the GSPC which shared its aim of establishing an Islamic state in Algeria. He is said to have become a member of the GSPC in 1998. Abdelwadoud, whose real name is Abdelmalek Droukdel, was one of the signatories to a statement in 2003, announcing an alliance with al-Qaeda.

In September 2006, the GSPC said it had joined forces with al-Qaeda, and in January 2007 it announced it had changed its name to “al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb” to reflect its allegiance. Abdelwadoud said he had consulted Ayman al-Zawahiri about the group’s plans. Three months later, 33 people were killed in bomb attacks on official buildings in Algiers. Abdelwadoud allegedly supervised the operation. That December, twin car bombs killed at least 37 people in the capital. The ambitions of the group’s leadership widened, and it subsequently carried out a number of attacks across North Africa. It also declared its intention to attack Western targets and send jihadis to Iraq. Westerners have also been kidnapped and held for ransom; some have been killed.

Osama has been killed, but the philosophy of Islamic Jihad continues to live. There is no magic glass to look into the future. With some degree of certainty it can be said that with Pakistan as the pivot of Islamic terrorism and extreme Wahhabi and Salafi ideas taking roots in Muslim minds, the ambience of Jihad will continue to plague the world. India has to be especially careful because Pak-Punjab is saturated with Islamic terrorists and the ISI and Pakistan army have not abandoned the anti-India tirade.

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