Two years after allegedly masterminding terrorist attacks in the United States, Osama bin Laden appears no closer to being brought to justice.
Pakistani troops this week moved into a remote tribal area where bin Laden and other Al Qaeda fugitives might be hiding, but found no evidence he is there, according to The Associated Press. The best officials could say was the terrorist leader had “melted into the mountains.”
“It has been a long time since we have heard anything” about bin Laden’s whereabouts, Pakistani Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema told the AP. “We have received no electronic intercepts or anything to indicate where he is.”
The Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera aired video footage of bin Laden and his top aide Wednesday, on the eve of the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks. It was the first new video image of the wealthy Saudi dissident in a year and a half.
In an audio tape accompanying the video, a voice said to be bin Laden’s praised the Sept. 11 attacks two years ago for “causing great damage to the enemy,” according to The Associated Press.
Bin Laden hadn’t been heard from since April 7, when a tape purporting to be his voice called for suicide attacks against Arab nations that support the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
Despite his low profile, bin Laden’s global network remains capable of coordinating attacks, according to a former CIA station chief in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “All he has to do is occasionally get a message through to the faithful,” terrorism expert Earl Tomlinson said in the Times-Herald in Norristown, Pa.
In fact, a British professor says Al Qaeda is stronger now than before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and criticized the United States’ war on terrorism as a failure.
“(Al Qaeda) and its associates have managed to plan and often undertake a remarkable range of activities, with these collectively showing a capability that exceeds that existing before the September 11 attacks,” Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford in England wrote in a recent study. “On this basis alone, it is difficult to accept any claim that the war on terror is being won.”
President Bush did not mention bin Laden in a nationally televised speech Sunday but declared Iraq the new “central front” in the nation’s war on terror.
An ABC News poll Sept. 9 said more Americans believe the war in Iraq increased the risk of terrorism in the United States than say it reduced the risk. While 40 percent said the war reduced the risk, 48 percent said it made the risk higher. That is a shift in public opinion since April, when nearly six in 10 said the U.S. was safer because of the war.
Democratic presidential candidates Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton have criticized the Bush administration for getting off course in the war on terrorism.
“Let me mention a name that probably nobody has heard in a long time. And that’s Osama bin Laden–‘bin missing,'” Braun said in a debate among Democratic hopefuls Sept. 4. “We haven’t been looking for him because we got off on the wrong track.”
In this week’s debate in Baltimore, Sharpton criticized Bush for being unable to find bin Laden. “This guy has out more videos than a rock star, but George Bush’s intelligence agencies can’t find him,” he said, as quoted by MSNBC.
Bin Laden has a $25 million price on his head and is listed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. He is accused of being behind not only the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed 3,021 Americans in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, but also is wanted in connection with 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed more than 200 people.
U.S. officials have rounded up more than 3,000 Al Qaeda members since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the FBI, and more than 200 suspected terrorists have been charged with crimes. Officials say two-thirds of the organization’s leaders have been captured or killed in one of the largest dragnets in history, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor.
A new audio tape, however, purportedly made by Al Qaeda, claims that the group’s ranks have doubled in size and promises further attacks on Americans worldwide that would make Washington forget the horror of two years ago.
“We announce there will be new attacks inside and outside which would make America forget the attacks of Sept. 11,” a man identifying himself as an Al Qaeda spokesman said on the tape broadcast last week on Arabic television.
“Our highest aim is to fight the Americans and kill them everywhere on earth and drive them out of Palestine, the Arabian peninsula and Iraq,” the voice on the tape said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.