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Where is Bin Laden? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Osama Bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda network, has been silent for long. Since April 2006, his speeches and comments have been absent; missing much of what has been unfolding in the political arena during this period. His utter silence this time, in addition to that of his adversaries – mainly the US president’s – is baffling. Bin Laden remains mute about attacking Bush and the latter is comfortable with this absence from the news arena – after all, the US president has his hands full with Iraq.

Regarding the frequent dealing with media outlets, one of Bin Laden’s sons quoted his father as having repeatedly said, “Overexposure is burdensome”. Notwithstanding, observers will have noticed that al Qaeda’s leader did not comply with this saying – in fact, he was a media star since the mid-1990s until last year.

Is Bin Laden’s silence a result of his demise? Did the ‘mufti of death’s’ life end inside a cave rather than on the front, or in a suicide operation as he had prompted many Muslim youth? Would his death transform him into another enigma to satisfy the gluttony of the conspiracy theory-mongers?

The fear is that the man may be keeping silent as the calm before the storm as he prepares for another catastrophe, a new one that will lead the world into wider circles of conflict that claim other victims, bringing about greater international conflicts than the ones we witnessed after the 9/11 attacks in the US.

The war on terrorism, which has been launched in response to what al Qaeda and Bin Laden have done, has come to be epitomized in Iraq, which is immersed in terrorism and political frivolity from all the concerned parties in question. Bin Laden’s name is only causally mentioned in the American political- and media- discourse. The search efforts for him have certainly not ceased, but they have been brought out from under the spotlight. We no longer come across even intelligence leaks indicating Bin Laden’s whereabouts, or the capture of any person linked to him.

The strange fact remains that Bin Laden’s deputy, [Ayman] al Zawahiri, has not yet designated a weekly time slot for his media appearance, with his transformation into political commentator on regional events, not letting anything escape without commenting on it – and issuing fatwas and instigating killing and destruction, of course. Evidently, Bin Laden’s hypothesis about overexposure has not been relevant to him!

If they endure, Bin Laden’s silence and eerie disappearance will make a sumptuous meal for conspiracy theory-mongers who will capitalize on that greatly. His long absence will also prompt one to ponder the reasons and the motive behind al Qaeda leader’s silence this time. If he does emerge one day or another to deliver a speech or pass a comment, the reception will certainly be unwelcoming.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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