The al-Qaida network confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden yesterday, serving notice it will take revenge on the United States and its allies and carry forward its campaign of terror.
A text dated May 3 from the ‘general leadership’ of the group said the “blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is precious to us and to all Muslims and will not go in vain”. It added: “We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries.”
As much a warning to Washington, the statement was meant also to galvanise followers to rise up, including in Pakistan where bin Laden was found and killed.
Ironically, however, this may actually be helpful to the US as it obviates the need to publish the pictures of the dead terrorist leader to quell conspiracy theorists claiming he is still alive.
As the killing of the perpetrator of 9/11 and other atrocities continued to reverberate around the globe, US officials said a first analysis of intelligence data seized from his lair showed that far from being just a figurehead, bin Laden was personally involved in hatching new plots against the US, including one to target trains on the 10th anniversary of the Twin Towers attack in September.
Also coming into focus yesterday were new details of surveillance the Abbottabad compound had been under since it was first identified as a possible al-Qaida hideout last August.
US officials revealed that CIA agents and informants had scrutinised the three-storey structure and its grounds for months from a nearby safehouse using telephoto lenses and long-range hearing devices. At the same time it was under satellite surveillance.
Even as President Barack Obama gave the order a week ago to send in the Seals, US intelligence officials were not completely sure bin Laden would be inside. Over the months, the CIA saw a tall man spending 20 minutes or longer each day walking back and forth in the compound garden.
They called him ‘the pacer’, but could never determine his precise height (6ft 5ins) and therefore identity.
Surveillance of the safe-house in Abbottabad will itself go down in CIA annals as one of the agency's most daring and difficult intelligence-gathering expeditions.
The greatest challenge was making sure nothing leaked about their presence in the town.
The effort was so important and complicated, the Washington Post reported, that the CIA was obliged late last year to go to the US Congress to ask permission to reallocate tens of millions of dollars just to pay for it. Teams of experts will be raking through the data taken from the compound for months, translating from Arabic to English and trying, first of all, to discern any evidence of pending attacks against the US.
The indication that bin Laden stayed involved in potential plots over the last several years from inside the compound contradicts those who argued he had faded into the background.
As to why bin Laden chose Abbottabad, a Pakistani Army garrison town two hours north of Islamabad, to base himself, US officials supposed it had been to escape the danger of strikes by US drones flying over border areas.
Al-Qaida indicated it is preparing to release an audio tape made by bin Laden before his death.
Some of the first information gleaned from Osama bin Laden's compound indicates al-Qaida considered attacking US trains on the upcoming anniversary of the September 11 attacks. One idea outlined in hand-written notes was to tamper with an unspecified US rail track so that a train would derail at a valley or a bridge, according to a security bulletin. The al-Qaida planners noted that if they attacked a train by tilting it, the plan would only succeed once because the tilting would be spotted the next time.