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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 22:59 GMT
Bin Laden 'does not run al-Qaeda'
By Rob Watson
BBC Defence and security correspondent

Osama bin Laden (archive)
Osama Bin Laden reportedly escaped capture in Afghanistan in 2001
A senior US diplomat has said Osama bin Laden is no longer the operational head of al-Qaeda.

The US ambassador to Pakistan, Ryan Crocker, also told reporters he thought al-Qaeda was in serious trouble.

Mr Crocker said he did not think Bin Laden still ran al-Qaeda because his remote mountain hideaway prevented contact with other al-Qaeda members.

US officials do not often talk now about Bin Laden, so the comments are interesting for their rarity value.

Mr Crocker's interpretation is not a radical departure from previous analysis by the Bush administration.

US officials have long argued that the war on terrorism has disrupted communications between the main al-Qaeda leadership and the rest of its scattered members.

Widely admired

Certainly, the sketchy evidence that exists suggests that Osama bin Laden has not had the same hands-on role in plotting al-Qaeda attacks since the Americans forced him into exile.

But that is not to say either he or the organisation he founded are a spent force.

Even if he no longer plays the same planning role he once did, he is still an inspirational figure to jihadis around the world.

They admire his teachings and, as importantly, his lifestyle as a man of wealth turned mujahideen.

As for al-Qaeda, it has claimed responsibility for many attacks since the war on terrorism and its ideology and methodology of suicidal attacks still find many willing new recruits.

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