10 years after death, Bin Laden still mobilises jihadists
A decade after he was hunted down and killed in Pakistan by US special forces, Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden retains the capacity to mobilise extremists even in a polarised jihadist scene that has radically changed in the last years.
Even though Bin Laden’s body was buried in the Arabian Sea from the deck of a US aircraft carrier hours after his death, to avoid the creation of any pilgrimage site on land, he remains an example and symbol for many radical Islamists.
The Saudi national shrewdly understood the importance of propaganda that has helped project his charismatic image long after his death. In videos he took to appearing with an assault rifle at his side, despite rarely seeing direct combat himself.
“Osama bin Laden carefully curated his public persona to cultivate a dedicated following,” said Katherine Zimmerman, an advisor for the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute’s.
“His image — that of a devout Muslim in more traditional dress, but always with his AK-74 at arm’s reach and often in his camouflage jacket — was tailored to portray himself as a leader in the jihad, both spiritually and militarily,” she said.
– ‘Unwinnable war’ –
This calculated image projection was a success, in particular for recruiting fighters, said Colin Clarke, director of research at the Soufan Center, a US-based risk consultancy.
“Even though he was criticised at times for his love of the media, he was savvy enough to understand the importance of advancing Al-Qaeda’s message on major platforms,” Clarke told AFP.
After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States carried out by an Al-Qaeda cell under bin Laden’s orders, the West spent billions of dollars trying to defeat radical Islamist extremists.
But jihadists are indisputably more numerous worldwide than they were two decades ago.
And President Joe Biden, who plans to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 by pulling US troops out from Afghanistan by September, will not be able to claim any conclusive victory in the operation…..read more