Osama Bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda and the man linked to 9/11, the 1998 American embassy bombings, and the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen, is apparently dead.

President Obama said in a press conference that a targeted operation against Osama’s compound in Abbotabad, north of Islamabad, resulted in the death of Bin Laden, and three other adults (including, it seems, an adult son of Bin Laden). The government took six of his other children, and two wives, into custody.

Results?

Martin Indyk, a former US. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, claimed that bin Laden’s death would deal “a body blow” to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undermined by the Arab world’s revolution.

On the other hand, Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington believes that “[i]t changes little in terms of on-the-ground realities — by the time of his death bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world”.

I am personally more inclined to agree with Nelson. Al Qaeda is a highly decentralised network of Islamist groups, and there are also many other groups dedicated to similar aims that have no relationship to Bin Laden. Besides, I have yet to see the Arab Spring revolutions weaken Islamist tendencies… I’m far more worried the new elections will unleash them…

What do we do with the body?

Apparently bin Laden’s body is being treated according to Islamic customs. Mind you, according to my knowledge of Islamic traditions, the body should be washed, prepared, covered with a shroud and buried within 24 hours of death. They’re taking blood samples. Hmm…

The problem of what to do with his remains is large. His family has distanced themselves, and burying the body in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan could create a shrine for radical Islamists. Not something either government really need. Plus, Pakistan really wants to forget about all this – he was found an hour’s drive from Islamabad.

Some precedent does exist. Jordanian-born terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, died in a bombing in Iraq. Jordan refused his body’s return, so he was instead buried in Iraq, in a secret location.

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