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Terrorism

Opinion: Bin Laden assassination does not signal al Qaeda's defeat

The world's most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, has been killed by American and Pakistani special forces. Although his death is a victory, al Qaeda is still far from defeated, according to Daniel Scheschkewitz.

The United States and the Western world have been waiting for this news for nearly a decade now: Osama bin Laden is dead.

The head of the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda was killed in a gunfight with US special forces just as former President George W. Bush had promised the American people after the terrible September 11 attacks.

As a consequence, the feeling of triumph is strong in the US and not without reason. Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the deaths of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. And although he was hardly in the position to personally direct terrorist attacks anymore, he remained an important symbolic figure around whom terrorist networks rallied in their global campaign of violence.

Bin Laden had become a myth whose ability to evade capture by the American superpower motivated young Jihadists. This allure has been destroyed. The al-Qaeda terrorist network no longer has its ideological head and over time the organization's attractiveness will wane. With bin Laden's assassination, the US has closed the gaping wound of "9/11." So far so good.

Unanswered questions

Yet there are still many unanswered questions and justified concerns. How could bin Laden live unmolested so close to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad for so many years? Did the American intelligence services' manhunt truly have the support of Pakistan?

Daniel Scheschkewitz

Daniel Scheschkewitz covers US national security and terrorism for Deutsche Welle in Washington

What about al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is still hiding somewhere on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan? And how independenly do the individual cells of the terrorist network now operate?

There is also fear that the followers of al-Qaeda will now try to demonstrate their strength in the aftermath of bin Laden's death with a renewed round of attacks. The recent bombing in Marrakech and the arrest of alleged al-Qaeda terrorists in Germany shows that they could very well pull this off.

The current upheaval in the Arab world could also create new opportunities for Jihadists. If persecution and chaos gain ground instead of freedom and stability then terrorism will find a new breeding ground.

It would be naïve to believe that with bin Laden's death the scourge of terrorism has been driven from the world. Al-Qaeda will still gain momentum if the underlying causes of terrorism are not combated politically. Bin Laden's death is an important partial victory in the global counter-terrorism campaign. However, we are still a long way away from safety.

Author: Daniel Scheschkewitz (sk)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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