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Osama death leaves world with tough questions on terror

Anti-terrorist activists hail president Obama during a demonstration in New Delhi on May 3, 2011 to celebrate killing of Osama bin Laden. The world is now debating what the death means for terrorism. Photo/AFP
Anti-terrorist activists hail president Obama during a demonstration in New Delhi on May 3, 2011 to celebrate killing of Osama bin Laden. The world is now debating what the death means for terrorism. Photo/AFP 

Osama is dead. But the questions that the world will be asking is: Will he die in peace or will his followers target American businesses and installations across the globe in retaliatory attacks?

Is the death of the terror mastermind necessarily going to lead to safer travel and tourism or will it lead to heightened security alerts and more thorough screening?

Kenyans have never forgotten that in 1998, al Qaeda terrorists, who were targeting the American embassy in Nairobi, killed over 250 Kenyans — and 12 Americans — in what remains the country’s worst terror attack.

While taking responsibility for the devastation that scarred Nairobi and brought the city to its knees, Osama, at the time, justified the killing of the Kenyans by claiming that in his war against the US and its allies, “there were no innocent bystanders.”

In 2002, the al Qaeda was at it again, this time bombing the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel in Kikambala.

During the attack, 15 people were killed and 80 others were injured.

The same day, another group of terrorists unsuccessfully tried to shoot down an Israeli passenger carrier as it flew out of the Moi International Airport in Mombasa.

Since then, al Qaeda has been attacking various installations targeting America and its allies.

The worst of this was the September 11, 2001 attack on US soil when hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

In the first attack, more than 3,500 people were killed, sparking American anger and prompting the then US president George W. Bush to vow he would hunt down and smoke out Osama.

President Bush left office without accomplishing this mission despite a spirited campaign by the American military to hunt down Osama in the harsh terrain of the now famous Torabora mountains on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan where Osama was believed to have been hiding in caves.

At the time, there were also claims that he was ill and some reports that he could have died.

However, from time to time, Osama’s men would release tapes online, warning America that it was still in his sites and threatening to unleash more terror.

In turn, the US allied public anxiety by questioning the authenticity of the tapes.

During the 2008 presidential campaigns in the US, senator Barack Obama — who was later to become the Democratic candidate and eventual winner of the election — had long drawn out and heated debates with his main challenger Republican John McCain, over who would make a better commander-in-chief of the US military.

This debate was one of the game-changers in that year’s campaign.

Both Mr Obama and Mr McCain pledged that they would “take out” Osama.

And now, three years later, and with the race for Obama’s re-election just starting, Mr Obama has delivered Osama into the hands of the Americans.

Judging by the instant celebrations, and the huge crowds that gathered outside the White House for celebrations on getting the news, there is no doubt that the American people — and the peace-loving citizens of the world — were relieved to hear that the man whose name struck terror throughout the globe had been killed in a dawn raid in a Pakistan suburb.

The questions now arise: what will happen in a post-Osama world? Will the globe be a safer place?

Will the businesses and interests of America and its allies be safe?

Will al-Qaeda be decapitated now that it is without its leader and chief financier or will it, like the multi-headed hydra, mutate?

In his speech on Monday, which clearly sought not to alienate the Muslim world, president Obama cast Osama as an enemy, not just of America and its people, but also of Islam.

He accused Osama of killing Muslims and, in a gesture of goodwill, said all those who love peace would welcome the killing of Osama by US troops.

He said: “We must also reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. I’ve made clear just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11 that our war is not against Islam. Bin laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

It was later reported that Osama’s body was interred in line with Islamic practices.

These gestures of openness on the part of the US president ought to, ideally, assuage Muslim anger and foster rapprochement between the US and the Muslim world; and if they are taken on a positive note by Muslim religious and political leaders, have the potential to open a new chapter in the relations between the two with a huge potential to foster world peace and reduce both the incidence and threats of terrorism.

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