Internet Sites Rage At US, But Bin Laden Silent
March 31 2003, 2:25 PM
Osama bin Laden, usually eager to rally Muslims by highlighting US "atrocities" around the world, has not been heard from 10 days into the US-led
war on Iraq, leading to new speculation on his fate.
Bin Laden's silence comes amid a flurry of militant rhetoric on Islamist websites in defence of Iraq and in praise of a suicide attack yesterday
outside the central city of Najaf that killed four US soldiers.
"This is only the beginning! ... Thank God! ... Let's pray for our martyred hero! ... Damned be the evildoers and hypocrites!" exclaimed one
message on the qal3ah.org site.
Yasser al-Sirri, director of the London-based Islamic Observatory, said it was possible that bin Laden's al-Qaeda network or groups claiming its name
would soon "move into action".
"They're probably waiting for the right comment. A statement that doesn't come before an action would be worthless," he said.
Abdul Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the London-based Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi, said: "It seems al-Qaeda doesn't want to express itself through
threats and prefers to go through action."
However, US officials have also been trumpeting recent progress in their campaign to eliminate al-Qaeda.
On March 1, a raid in Pakistan netted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, said to be a key organiser of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed more than
3,000 in the United States.
In one of the last messages attributed to bin Laden, Qatar-based channel al-Jazeera on February 11 broadcast an audiotape with a voice said to be the
world's most-wanted extremist, which called on Muslims to support Iraq against the United States.
On March 23, the Saudi weekly al-Majallah said it had received an electronic message from al-Qaeda in which bin Laden urged his supporters to attack
US military bases in the Gulf and on the Arabian peninsula.
But with or without al-Qaeda, seething calls for action against the United States have been proliferating on Islamist websites since the US-led
coalition launched the war March 20 to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Islamtoday.net has devoted wide space to pro-Iraqi writings from the Arab press.
One, taken from the Egyptian daily al-Usbu, likened US President George W Bush to the Mongol emperor Hulagu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, who in
1259 ruthlessly sacked Baghdad, then seat of Islam's Abbasid caliphate.
"But Baghdad survived and the Mongols wound up in the garbage can of history. The same fate awaits Bush, Hulagu of the 21st century, and his
helpers," it said.
Another site, alsaha.fare.net, called on Muslims to "help their Iraqi brothers, if not by arms then at least by prayers".
Qa3ah.org published "an urgent appeal to Muslims" accompanied by images of bloodied Iraqi civilians and portraits of bin Laden and the 19 suicide
hijackers of September 11.
The United States, Britain and Israel are not the only targets on the Islamist web. Arab states viewed as pro-Western - particularly Kuwait, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan - are also frequently castigated.