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Bin Laden's 'strong' al Qaida role


Osama bin Laden played a big role in planning and directing attacks by al Qaida, US officials say

Osama bin Laden played a big role in planning and directing attacks by al Qaida, US officials say

Osama bin Laden played a big role in planning and directing attacks by al Qaida, US officials say

The wealth of information pulled from Osama bin Laden's compound has reinforced the strong role he played in planning and directing attacks by al Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, senior US officials have said.

The data further proves to the US that al Qaida commanders and other principal insurgents are scattered throughout Pakistan, not just in the rugged border areas, and are supported and given sanctuary by Pakistanis, a senior defence official said.

US counter-terrorism officials have debated how big a role bin Laden and core al Qaida leaders were playing in the attacks launched by affiliated terror groups, particularly al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, and al-Shabab in Somalia.

Information gathered in the compound, officials said, strengthened beliefs that bin Laden was a lot more involved in directing al Qaida personnel and operations than sometimes thought over the last decade. It also suggests bin Laden was "giving strategic direction" to al Qaida affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, the defence official said.

Bin Laden's first priority, the official said, was his own security. But the data shows that he was far more active in providing guidance and telling affiliated groups in Yemen and Somalia what they should or should not be doing.

The comments underscore US resolve to pursue terror leaders in Pakistan, particularly during this critical period in the Afghanistan war, as President Barack Obama moves to fulfil his promise to begin withdrawing troops in July.

Already the Afghan Taliban has warned that bin Laden's death will boost morale of insurgents battling the US and its Nato allies in Afghanistan. Al Qaida itself vowed revenge, confirming bin Laden's death for the first time but saying that American "happiness will turn to sadness".

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The US has already launched at least one drone strike into Pakistan in the days since bin Laden was killed, and there is no suggestion those will be curtailed. The strikes are largely carried out by CIA drones, and the expectation is that they will continue in the coming days as US military and intelligence officials try to take quick advantage of the data they swept up in the raid before insurgents have a chance to change plans or locations.

The American public, meanwhile, will get a peek at bin Laden and his life inside the secret compound in Abbottabad, according to US officials. Unreleased bin Laden propaganda tapes as well as footage of him moving about the compound is expected to be made public, officials said. Still cloaked in secrecy are photographs of the dead terror leader, who was shot once in the head and once in the chest by a Navy Seal team.

Officials say they have already learned a lot from bin Laden's cache of computers and data, but they would not confirm reports that it yielded clues to the whereabouts of al Qaida deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri is a leading candidate to take bin Laden's place as the leader of the terror group.

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