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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Bin Laden: Dead or alive?
A tape broadcast on Arabic television station al-Jazeera proves that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is still alive, according to experts.
A voice on the tape praises attacks in Bali, Kuwait and Yemen and the takeover of a Moscow theatre by Chechen rebels, showing that Bin Laden was still alive last month.
Bin Laden's fate has been the centre of intense speculation since the US launched a bombing campaign against al-Qaeda and the Taleban Government in Afghanistan at the end of 2001.
In July, the FBI's counter-terrorism chief, Dale Watson, said he felt that Bin Laden was "probably not with us any more" while President George Bush says the new tape's publication is a message that will be taken very seriously.
What do you think? Do the new tapes prove that Osama Bin Laden is alive? Should law enforcement officials provide more evidence before speculating on whether Bin Laden is alive or dead?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Andy Richards, UK
As long as there is
no peace between Israel and Palestine
terrorism will continue. President Bush and the rest of the Western leaders should force Israel and the Arabs to settle their differences. Attacking Iraq will simply
between the Muslim world
and the West.
Of course Bin Laden is alive! If the FBI and the CIA were doing a better job, and if they really wanted to, they would have caught him by now.
He must be dead, that is why the US is demonising Saddam so much, in order that when the news of OBL's death leaks out, the so-called "war on terror" will already have a new scapegoat.
Never underestimate the power of hidden force. Until we are presented with his dead body, he is still alive.
Isn't it great that we can all debate whether he is alive or not? OBL himself, if alive, doesn't even have the freedom to join us. He must hide. I think there is justice in that.
The world better listen very carefully to the "voice of terror" that has spoken and is threatening the world with deadly words and actions. Whether the voice is Osama's or not, the threats seem real. It's only a question of time before we know the truth.
I don't think it really matters that much. The damage had already been done. Bin Laden's project of destroying the western world has been taken up by Muslims worldwide. I think terrorism must be countered with terrorism. Infiltrate the enemy and destroy on contact. Think of this as an infection. We don't fire missiles at someone who has cancer - targeted infiltration seems more appropriate. Is there really an effective alternative?
If these tapes are authentic, it should be an eye opener for the whole world. The Bush administration has failed to eliminate Bin Laden, and he is still a big threat to the world. I do not see why we should rouse a sleeping tiger like Saddam Hussein, when it is obvious that Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda pose an imminent danger to the United States. The focus should be on al-Qaeda and not waging an untimely war against Iraq.
OK, so Osama Bin Laden, a man we are told has substantial wealth and a substantial following can't get his hands on a camcorder, only a dodgy audio tape recorder? Are we seriously expected to believe this drivel? If Bush & Blair want me to believe he is alive to justify the cost of attacking Iraq, they could at least have the decency to provide pictures. The trouble is that they can't! This may be sufficient evidence for the warmongers amongst us, but not for those of us who require proof.
Jim McDonald, Canada
Whether the new tape gives evidence as to Osama being dead or otherwise is for the technical experts to prove. Personally, I would be very surprised to see him alive. However, it is not good for the law enforcement officials to just speculate on his death. That would be a grave mistake for the world. It only amounts to trying to win a psychological war which will prove disastrous if he is later found to be alive.
Hopefully, if he is not dead now, he will be soon. After all, the US excels at technological advancement. That ability is now being directed towards the efficient elimination of terrorists. The elimination of one of Bin Laden's top lieutenants by a hellfire missile fired by a remote-guided plane is only a beginning. The US is even now perfecting laser-based weaponry that can strike with amazing precision and accuracy, capable of destroying an artillery shell in mid-air.
He's dead for sure. So too will his followers be soon. Freedom is a power that cannot be overcome once it has been given life, and with freedom there must be justice.
It doesn't matter whether he is alive or dead. Al-Qaeda members are still alive. Bush is regretting what he brought onto his own hands.
Leave Osama alone and concentrate on eliminating the atrocities against the Moslem people.
I do not believe a word of it. This is another piece of Pentagon propaganda to cause fear among nations and draw them into an unwanted war. America and Britain have a long record of such manipulation.
Does it really matter? As long as foreign policies in the Middle East are so blatantly unjust to the people of that region, there will be other OBL's.
Even if Bin Laden is alive, he is a man on the run and thus not as much of a threat as some of his erstwhile colleagues.
Osama is what the Americans made him to be. He will be dead when the Americans want him to be. Till that time he is serving a purpose for the Americans, so he is alive.
I am sure Bin Laden is alive and well. I also believe if he was involved with 9/11, then chances are he left Afghanistan on 9/10. I do not know of any average criminal who commit a crime, and then go back to his home and await the arrival of Police force. We needed a scapegoat and the American public bought it and Bush is getting popular by each day.
All this proves the war on terror has failed. The UK and US government must seriously take a different approach to Iraq rather than using war as means to oust Saddam.
Just like OBL appears and disappears so will Saddam and his cronies, and thousands upon thousands of innocents will be killed.
Andrew M, UK
I'll believe he is alive when we see new video footage of him. Until then I am convinced that these recordings where made by losers desperate to rally the criminal al-Qaeda organisation.
Has it occurred to the tape analysis experts that Bin Laden has close family members, some of whom might share his vocal characteristics, regional accent and speech inflections?
I find it very hard to believe he is still alive and if so, it's ridiculous how much "Bush's war" has cost without bringing him in. Between his face and these "recordings" showing up at just the right moments, it would seem he's little more than a tool to gain support for a very obscure and questionable war.
When this all began, people wanted simply to see Osama brought in for justice. Since that time this "war" has been so twisted and distorted that I don't believe any know where it's headed anymore.
Tim Renfro, USA
Whether Bin Laden is alive or dead is irrelevant. He is just one man. The issues of Muslim suffering he raised to get Muslims to join his cause still remain unsolved and unaddressed. One cannot help thinking how delighted he must be by the policies of the Bush administration who in wanting to attack Iraq are increasing support for extremism and anti-American sentiment across the Muslim world and further increasing the gap between the West and Muslims.
My guess is that he is alive but that he was badly injured and disfigured at Tora Bora and that is why he has not allowed any videos.
Osama Bin Laden may be physically dead, but his message of terror will live on. Dead or alive, he will continue to inspire other attacks on the USA in particular. Therefore, the wise world leader should focus attention on eliminating the conditions that gave rise to people like Osama in the first place.
Does it really matter? Even if he is dead, his followers will still think of him as their mentor and abide by his words, his vision and his philosophy, which is to destroy the West or Westerners by acts of terrorism. The hatred against the West by his people will prevail and only time will tell when they will strike next. On the other hand, if Bin Laden is alive or at large, he better not be underestimated at all cost.
Jo, United Kingdom
People's memories are so short - remember the Cold War when both sides needed a war to justify their actions? The Bush administration et al. need OBL to remain in the news because it can justify massive domestic and international political repression. For their part, the al-Qaeda idiots need OBL as a rallying call and sick justification for their actions. US and UK citizens, wake up - your governments are fooling you!
It's a good question. There are all sorts of rumours (in India people are sure that "he is hiding in Musharraf's palace itself!") But no one knows for sure, except perhaps certain intelligence agencies. Anyway, we'll find out what's going on when it's safe to know what the army and such are doing. I'm pretty sure he must be making plans if he is alive. Still, he may be al-Qaeda's leader, but even if he dies, another leader will easily take his place and probably make plans as deadly as his, if not more so.
Ambiguity about whether OBL is dead or alive serves the interest of both sides. For the US he is the personification of who we are fighting against in the war on terror. Without him who are we fighting? For al-Qaeda the possibility of his being alive can show he has outwitted the US. Neither side has any interest in confirming his death.
I believe he is dead, simply because someone who was so vociferously urging a global Islamic uprising against the West is highly unlikely to have shut up at the height of hostility and remained silent ever since. I think he's silent because he is dead. Alive, he'd be ranting and raving as much as ever.
Osama Bin Laden is still at large. I believe, if he isn't in another country biding his time, he is well fortified in the mountains of Afghanistan. It's like looking for a needle in a haystack. If anyone, the British can find him and destroy this evil man once and for all.
I'm not sure is Bin Laden is dead or alive. I can't speculate on that until I have evidence. I think its a bad idea for the US Government to guess at it. The important thing is as long as Bin Laden is alive in the minds of the terrorists, we are all in danger.
If he was dead al-Qaeda would most certainly be declaring him a great martyr and using his death as a rallying point for Islamic fundamentalists.
However, if he is still alive why has he not been recorded? Certainly he would want to taunt the US and the West on his ability to survive and use this as a PR coup.
My take is that our elite forces snatched him and we are either holding him incommunicado or just executed him outright.
I hope he didn't die. I'm looking forward to seeing him publicly tried, humiliated and demythologized. Then executed. There would be nothing better than to see him in shackles in an orange prison suit.
I still think that he's alive, simply because there is no evidence to prove otherwise. But I doubt that he will be planning any more attacks for some time to come, the world is too aware of him at the moment.
Nyck Wiseman, UK
Bin Laden is probably alive but even if he were killed I am not sure that it would be a good thing to publicise it. Too many people view the war against terrorism as just eliminating OBL and if he is killed I feel that the work being done to make everybody safer could lose momentum and focus.
I think he is probably alive, he was probably well away from the Tora Bora region before the bombs fell. However, is it really relevant? Whether he is alive or dead the threat of international terrorism still exists. Acts of terrorism were being committed all around the world BEFORE 9/11 and have continued since. Bin Laden was not responsible for all of them, nor was his organisation.
It would be so simple for Osama Bin Laden to prove he is alive. Just a picture of him with a recent newspaper that could be verified as genuine would be good enough. It might suit him to keep people guessing, but it is my guess that he is too scared to want us to think he is alive and does not want his followers to lose heart if he pretends to be dead.
Mahavir Dalal, India/USA
There¿s no way he's dead, we're not that lucky.
Bin Laden is not dead. He is too rich and clever to be caught. US and UK forces can't even spot an al-Qaeda man let alone catch him. He will surface and when he does it will send shockwaves down the Bush administration.
I am almost certain that he is alive and plotting his next attack. But either way there is no way that he will let the Americans lay a hand on him when he is alive. I think if he sees danger is imminent he will kill himself and die as a martyr rather than be caught alive.
Tim Bainbridge, UK
Bin Laden is probably dead, killed by US military operations in Afghanistan. As a result al-Qaeda is almost certainly finished as an organised terror group. Otherwise we would almost certainly have heard from them by now.
There are many sides to this man, he is cunning and shrewd. Afghanistan is now getting aid from all over the world, and schools and hospitals are being built, and electric and water systems are being installed in what was once a hell-hole. Was this one of his aims?
Osama is not stupid. He wouldn't just stick around is Afghanistan waiting for some one to knock him off. He would have gone long before the attacks occurred.
Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi, USA
I think that really the Americans wouldn't have any idea on the fate of Bin Laden. For all they know, he could be in their country living amongst them. He really is a dangerous man and is probably planning his next move. Look out world.
If Osama has been removed then we certainly won't hear about it from Washington for a considerable amount of time. The speculation as to his existence only helps to justify the war on terror and divert attention away from a failing economy and incredulous unaccountable misconducts. Removing the Osamas, Arafats and Husseins of the world is one thing but addressing the core issues that create the discontent is another, because if we fail to take the upper hand then we shall continue to see more of the same.
It's futile to speculate on whether he is alive or dead. You can bet that with failing health, a man with that much blinkered drive had himself either cremated, diced or minced. He'd never risk giving 'the infidels' the satisfaction of a confirmed kill. If he is dead, no-one will ever be able to confirm it, but you can bet that another will come along to take his place. So either way, the fight remains the same.
"The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he did not exist." (From The Usual Suspects.)
Was Bin Laden in the mountains? Was he among the innocent villagers who were targeted, or a member of the poor wedding party who were bombed? After all this violence against the Afghan people, America should have a greater degree of certainty whether their tactics are working. Killing so many innocent civilians is just settling the score and creating more enemies; this is not justice.
Paul B, Worksop, UK
I think he's living in South America, with Elvis, Lord Lucan and Martin Bormann. Or something. The one thing I'm sure about is that the conspiracy theorists will have a field day over this.
All this discussion is leading to the formulation and creation of a legend and the myth of Bin Laden. Dead or alive, does it really matter? Has the death of any historical figure meant the death of an idea? Especially an idea that was the direct reactionary result of US foreign policy.
Bin Laden is certainly alive and well. He will definitely make a comeback after the Americans killed thousands of innocent villagers during their pointless bombing campaigns which served only one purpose: satisfaction for the American public that their government is taking action against terrorists.
He is probably alive. Most
of the al-Qaeda escaped
and there is no reason
to believe he did not also.
However, the bounty on
his head probably prevents
him from meeting lots
of supporters and operating
in the political mode that
he was in before.
Of course he's alive. He's probably walking down a street near you right now. With his millions, he has probably had a shave and got a new ID. Anyone in his right mind would not be hanging out in Pakistan, where he's at risk of being sold out. No, he's living quietly at the Savoy or somewhere similar.
John W, USA
Until we have definite proof that
Bin Laden is dead, we should all assume that he is still plotting. It would be foolish to act otherwise. Even then, there will always be threats of this kind while Terrorism is not dealt with seriously. There are plenty more 'Bin Ladens' in this world yet.
I'm sure he is alive and will be being discovered every five to 10 years for the next century. I know a journalist who is convinced he is living in part of an old Russian barracks here in Wroclaw.
Well the truth is I think for the Western powers that Bin Laden's mystery status is exactly what they want. I mean, if he were captured and imprisoned there would most likely be increased terrorist activity by his supporters in attempts to free him. Then on the other hand if he was dead he would become a martyr to his followers and so inspire more terrorist attacks that way. So it is far better for everyone that his status remains unknown for all of us.
It seems a dangerous assumption to make.
Surely assuming he's alive and planning would be the more astute view to take. Surely the lessons of the recent past should point to erring on the side of caution
Tom Nickalls, Peru
Bin Laden has more brains than to stay in Afghanistan, so of course he isn't dead. We can only hope that one day soon he will be.
Scott W, USA
I'm pretty sure he's alive and well. Even if he's dead this conflict is not over for either side. Al-Qaeda could be anywhere, which is quite sad and ultimately terrifying.
If Osama believes in his cause as much as he obviously does, he will ensure things don't fall apart if he dies.
Osama Bin Laden professed to all his followers that they should valiantly stand up to the evil Western infidels in the name of their beliefs, and fight to the death if necessary. Given that he himself then cowers in caves, never to be seen facing the enemy in person, I can see no more fitting a demise for him than to become another faceless corpse buried under a mountain somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The man has been a hypocrite since day one and deserves to die like one.
The US and the rest of the world should rebuild and we should all get on with our lives. Whether Bin Laden is alive or not is the least of our worries, all we need to do is ready ourselves to fight against terror.
OBL is a clever man. So far, he has proved that. Is he dead? Only he and those close to him, know the answer to that. We have to wait and find out.
He's probably dead. I don't think, with his ego, that he could have waited this long to make another video if he was alive. It doesn't really matter anyway. If he's not dead now, he'll be dead or captured soon enough.
If Bin Laden is dead, it's only one head from the al-Qaeda monster.
But does it really matter now anyway? Can we find him either way? And how do we extract justice from someone who believes every move the West makes is based on evil anyway. I think he is just being used as an excuse now.
What difference does it make? In life he is a leader, in death he is a martyr.
How are we supposed to make judgements based on vague propaganda from two sides renowned for their deception and arrogance?
If the speculation was courtesy of US "intelligence" agencies, we shouldn't even bother paying much attention to it.
Osama Bin Laden is probably currently alive and well, living in Wisconsin or Omaha in some equivalent of a witness relocation programme. The US looks after its former enemies.
He looked okay in that Eminem video.
It's coming up to a year since the devastation, and the USA is not sure if he is dead or alive? The US claims to have the technology to see a 10p coin from space. Surely they can find a fully grown human being. The talk of the CIA and the FBI not sharing information is just pathetic. To defend your country properly you need to have one unified team and one unit. It seems that the CIA and FBI are racing against each other to claim victory on the war on terror.
The US special forces could easily have killed and buried him and denied all knowledge of it. Al-Qaeda are proven liars anyway so they could be saying he's alive and well and have no real knowledge of where he is.
If he is alive, the best place for him to hide would be somewhere in the West, as no one would believe it was him.
I think the area to watch is the tribal band in Pakistan. The US and the Pakistanis will probably end up fighting a prolonged ground war in this area against al-Qaeda. It seems like the US is readying itself for a big offensive, once they have built up the courage to take serious casualties. As for Osama Bin Laden, I think he's still alive.
I'll believe it when I see his corpse displayed for the world's press.
We'll never know whether OBL is dead or alive. If he's alive and shows himself enough to prove it, he'll be dead very quickly. He's not likely to do that. If he's dead, his body will not be found - the US does not want the finality of a corpse to put a full stop on the end of this conflict. All we'll ever get will be hazy statements from either side, with nothing definite. It's not in anyone's interest to be sure.
No chance. He is still out there and planning his next move. Anyway if he is dead has it made the world a safer place? I very much doubt it.
It doesn't matter now if he is dead or alive, what is really important is that al-Qaeda and other organisations are alive and kicking and I think all members of all terrorist organisations have the potential to become the next Bin Laden. So the world should start wiping them out.
Osama is someone who courts the limelight and the media. It would be totally out of character for him not to use this opportunity to gloat at his enemies and their failure to catch him. I would therefore conclude that he is either dead or is too seriously wounded to make an appearance on TV. The statements by officials might be a ruse to goad Osama into proving them wrong, as al-Qaeda relies heavily on propaganda for its own support and morale.
So that must mean that the war is probably over then, phew that's a relief! Victory is ours.
I think Bin Laden's already dead and I think the Americans know it too.
It just gives them an excuse to continue on into Iraq and bomb that country too.
I think Osama Bin Laden must have been squashed like a bug when bombs fell on the Tora Bora region.
I do believe he is still at large, and we all better watch out.
18 Jul 02 | South Asia
15 Jul 02 | Europe
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