surname can be a burden. For Hamza bin Laden, the surname was probably a curse
as well as a blessing. Not many around the world had probably heard his name
until news of his death was broadcast in early August by the U.S. media.
reports say that Hamza, 30, was killed in a military operation about two years
ago. He was apparently last seen in Iran after he and a few others of his group
had been flushed out of Afghanistan. There is also speculation that he sought
refuge in Pakistan, like his father Osama bin Laden.
knows why it took so long for the U.S. to be convinced that Hamza had indeed died.
In 2017, the U.S. had classified Hamza as a Specially Designated Global
Terrorist. This decision was possibly on account of the realisation that
Hamza’s vitriolic utterances against the U.S could inflame passions in the
Islamic world, inside al Qaeda and outside.
the U.S. announced a bounty of $1 million on his head only early this year, an
indication that there was some doubt about his death until July 31. This
reinforces the impression that targeted terrorists are elusive, fleet-footed and
are able to hide their identities and movements for long, even from the Central
Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
experts are divided on the impact of Hamza’s killing on al Qaeda. Some say he
was charismatic and had great oratorical skills that won him some admirers
looking for straws to clutch on to in the post-Osama era. But beyond this there
wasn’t anything spectacular about Hamza to write home about. There is no
account of his assuming a front-line role on any occasion — as a strategist,
propagandist or fighter. In sum, he was a nondescript personality from whom a
lot was expected. He disappointed his small number of followers.
went around in al Qaeda circles for a while that the mantle of leadership of
the dreaded outfit was waiting to fall on Hamza. This was because Ayman
al-Zawahiri, the current head, who took over from Osama bin Laden, was
reportedly suffering from a potentially debilitating heart condition and had
failed to provide inspiration for any major attacks. He also chose not to
target the West and its allies.
But if one
looks at it objectively, Osama bin Laden himself was unable to carry out any
attacks after 9/11 as he was on the run. Realising that the U.S. would somehow
get him, bin Laden was desperate that the outfit he had built assiduously
should not become rudderless after him. Bin Laden groomed Hamza hoping that he
would continue to work with the same zeal after his time. But Hamza did not
live up to his father’s expectations. He made occasional noises against the
U.S., which were possibly feeble attempts to avenge his father’s killing. But
Hamza could not have been able to do much after his father’s death anyway. In
the post-Osama era, al Qaeda began to be overshadowed by the arrival of a
belligerent Islamic State (IS). With a relatively young leadership which
exploited modern technology, the IS attempted to establish a Caliphate rather
than focusing on winning followers by banking on a fossilised ideology, as al
Qaeda did and suffered irretrievably.
all this leave counterterrorism policymakers? They should focus on a strategy
to prevent a coalescence of al Qaeda and the IS. The two are not bitter enemies
(though al Qaeda believes less in reckless attacks) as some mistakenly believe.
There are no doubt differences between them, such as the territory they should
concentrate on and the methods they should employ in unleashing terror. Al
Qaeda’s targets are essentially the U.S. and its allies, while the IS has
worked overtime in capturing geographical areas and associated assets in Syria
and Iraq. The IS had huge appeal among the youth.
no major conflict between the two organisations which have demarcated among
themselves territories from which to operate. On a handful of occasions the two
have actually worked in tandem. This is why any tactic of playing one against
the other may not work to destabilise either. Both are formidable and their
prowess cannot be underrated. The two can individually or together work to
muddy the troubled waters on our borders. Both are looking for space to expand.
The recent intemperate utterances on Kashmir of Maulana Abdul Aziz, a cleric
who was close to Osama bin Laden and who was the Imam of the historic Lal
Masjid in Islamabad in 2007 when the Pakistan Army laid siege, are mischievous.
This is why collaboration of an assortment of competing anti-Indian and
pro-Islamic outfits and standalone clerics is a deadly prospect.
R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director.
Source: The Hindu