Analysis - Qaeda signals it lives to fight another day
LONDON (Reuters) - An al Qaeda message confirming Osama bin Laden's death is intended to show a globally-scattered following that the group has survived as a functioning network.
The group's commanders will hope the rapidity of their reaction just five days after bin Laden was killed will inspire affiliates to attack the West. Al Qaeda's core leaders, believed hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border region, normally take weeks or months to react to events in the outside world.
But the online statement, the core al Qaeda leadership's first public act post-bin Laden, gives no clue to the perennial question counter-terrorism experts pose about the group: to what extent can it back up its fierce words with deeds?
Here are some points about the message, issued on online forums used by al Qaeda:
-- A statement as significant as this would have had to be coordinated and approved by individuals sheltering in several places, suggesting the group's command network remains functional at least at some level.
-- The confirmation of bin Laden's killing should settle questions lingering among al Qaeda-allied militant groups about whether the inspirational figurehead is really dead.
-- The confirmation may serve as a green light to affiliates to proceed with plans to avenge his death.
-- Apart from a statement that his death should be a curse on the United States and its friends, the language about the West is standard al Qaeda fare and lacks specifics.
-- The most specific language is about Pakistan. Pakistanis are urged to rise up against their government to "cleanse" the country of what the message calls the shame brought on the nation by bin Laden's death on Pakistani soil.
-- The message says bin Laden approves of the Arab revolts, and discloses that a forthcoming audio message by bin Laden will congratulate Muslims on the "revolutions that rose in the face of oppressors."
-- This may be intended to bolster al Qaeda's so far hesitant reaction to the rebellions, which are widely seen as a long-term threat to al Qaeda's message of violence.
-- Al Qaeda expert Leah Farrall said the announcement showed the group's core leaders were demonstrating resilience after the loss of their leader and had multiple communications channels at their disposal to get their message out.
-- Key figures likely to have been involved in the statement are bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda's leading clerical authority Abu Yahya al-Libi, publicist Adam Gadahn and possibly former military commander Saif al-Adel.
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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