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Osama Death May Splinter Militants Further

Osama bin Laden’s death will have a spillover effect in anti-terror efforts, as jihadist groups in northwest Pakistan compete for influence and attention.

Inter Press Service

The killing of Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in an operation by the U.S. forces has dealt a serious blow to the beleaguered Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

"Osama’s death is a very serious setback to the anti-American movements across the world," defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi tells IPS. "The majority of the anti-U.S. groups draw strength from Al-Qaeda. Such groups are not formally associated with Al-Qaeda but they accepted Osama as their leader."

Rizvi said it is now up to the leadership of Al-Qaeda to do some soul-searching to cope with the situation after Osama’s death.

Several jihadist groups operate in the sprawling and lawless Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan near Afghanistan border. Each has been advancing its own agenda.

There are seven tribal agencies in FATA, where as many groups of TTP have been operating. There are serious differences among them.

Khalid Khan a journalist based in Waziristan in the north of Pakistan said that the gap left by Osama’s death will further deepen fissures among the terrorist factions.

"There was a battle between TTK and the Lashkar Jhangvi in Mohmand Agency (area) in August last year in which about 25 persons were killed. The situation was becoming more dangerous but Osama’s people intervened and both the groups buried their differences," Khan said.

"Bin Laden was an inspirational force for Al-Qaeda, and Muslims from all over the world donated generously to strengthen his hands against the U.S. Now, I don’t think that flow of donations will continue because the people don’t trust TTP like they did Osama," he said.

Political science teacher Johar Ali tells IPS that Osama’s killing by the U.S. force will not stop the anti- American war in Pakistan and Afghanistan completely, but will weaken the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

"The Egyptian leader Dr Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri is likely to become leader of Al-Qaeda. But Osama’s death will keep haunting Al-Qaeda and Taliban because he commanded respect," Ali said.

Osama bin Laden, accused by the U.S. of carrying out the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington that killed more than 3,000 people, reportedly crossed over to Pakistan to escape the bombardment by the allied forces towards the end of 2001. The U.S. and Afghan governments have long been insisting that Osama was hiding in Pakistan’s tribal area, a charge vehemently denied by Pakistan government.

"His assassination near the military academy in the garrison city of Abbotabad has cast aspersions on Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism," says Akram Tanoli, who teaches political science at the University of Peshawar.

On Monday, a meeting among the President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha discussed the situation arising from Osama’s death, and later issued a statement that Osama had been killed in an operation carried out by U.S. forces.

"The statement was meant to convey to the TTP that they had no role in the operation. Pakistan is already beset with aggressive armed campaigns by TTP," Tanoli said.

Of late, there has been a barrage of accusations by the U.S. that the ISI had close links with Taliban and Al-Qaeda. One U.S. report based on interviews with inmates at Guantanamo Bay had even declared the ISI a terrorist outfit, and said it be treated at par with Al-Qaeda.

"Maybe the Pakistani forces wanted to remove the prevalent mistrust of America, due to which they hunted Osama," Tanoli said.

Political commentator Brigadier Saleh Omar told IPS it is a great setback for Al-Qaeda to have lost their founding leader. "It is uncertain whether remaining Al-Qaeda leaders would be able to keep their movement alive or not," he said. Bin Laden himself was seriously ill and over the past few years was not associated with terror because he was on the run, Omar said.

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda have already lost support among the public due to suicide attacks on markets and mosques which have killed innocent people.

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