Bin Laden, Dead? A Chinese report says so.
By Kathryn Jean Lopez, NRO Executive Editor
October 25, 2001 12:10 p.m.
James S. Robbins, a professor of international relations at the National Defense University's School for National Defense Studies & NRO contributor. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of NDU, the Department of Defense, or the government of the United States.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: There are reports on the Internet and in a Japanese newspaper that Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden are dead. Where are these coming from and should we have any reason to believe them -- over, say, the claims of the Taliban?
Editor's note: In a YouTube, Benazir Bhutto, in an interview from Pakistan, with David Frost in England, stated that Osama bin Laden had been murdered. The BBC actually censored her stating this by filming David Frost while she was stating this fact. It was reported that this could be one of the reasons why she was herself assassinated a few weeks later. I posted that YouTube on my blog dated January 8, 2008 in which both the al Jeezeera film accompanies the BBC version of the interview.
James S. Robbins: On October 24 a Chinese internet news site, Zhongxin Wang, ran a piece describing in detail the purported assassination of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar by members of their retinue at an underground base near Kandahar on October 16, 2001. They were both shot twice in the back. One of bin Laden's sons and two of Omar's were also killed. The story was picked up today by the Tokyo-based Yomiuru Shimbun, the largest daily newspaper in Japan. Of course rumors and war go hand in hand, and without proof one way or another what is one to think?
Lopez: Last week there was a meeting in Afghanistan with top Taliban leaders after which they announced that the Taliban would fight under other leaders if Mullah Omar dies. This meeting began on October 16, the day this Chinese site claims Omar was shot. Coincidence?
Robbins: Well, there were some strange things going on in Afghanistan last week. The Pakistani press reported that Mullah Omar had convened a Shura (council meeting) in Kandahar on the 16th of more than 100 Taliban commanders. This alone strikes one as unusual. How could they get to Kandahar safely? And, once there, wouldn't they present a perfect target for the allied forces? Maybe they were -- the meeting lasted until the 19th, which was the day of the U.S. Ranger raid on Kandahar. When the Shura ended the Taliban issued some odd comments. For example, they "advised" Mullah Omar to "control the command of the Taliban army by remaining underground," and also "directed Osama bin Ladin and his associates to remain underground." They also set up a line of succession should Omar be "martyred," and "expressed their determination to remain united until the end, even after their leader is martyred." It might sound like prudent planning to establish a line of succession -- the United States has one for example -- but in an authoritarian regime it is rare. Usually it amounts to a death sentence for the person tapped as the successor. In this case four Taliban commanders were named as possible successors -- which could mean that the Shura could not decide on a single successor, and a power struggle is underway. The AP report of the arrest of 100 people in Kandahar also fits the puzzle.
And one more thing to consider: On October 16, Taliban Corps Commander Mullah Muhammad Akhtar Usmani, one of the people named as a possible successor to Omar, made a lengthy statement that Omar and his family were "safe at their residence" and "completely unharmed." But no one had claimed otherwise.
Lopez: What would be a possible motivation for the Taliban to kill either Mullah Omar or Osama bin Laden? And if they did, why wouldn't they come right out and blame it on us, possibly, even inciting international calls for the U.S. to end the strikes on Afghanistan?
Robbins: Motives are hard to judge. The assassins were clearly on a suicide mission. We can't know for whom they were working; maybe they were just Afghan patriots. The alleged attack coincided with an unscheduled meeting between Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil (another of the possible successors and a so-called "moderate") and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. It was rumored that Mutawakkil was defecting, but he returned to Afghanistan. Not much has been heard of him since he pledged "complete trust in the leadership of Mullah Omar" in an interview on al Jazeera television October 19. It is satisfying to think that Omar and bin Laden are dead, and we should know soon if this is true. This kind of thing can't stay secret for long. If they are dead then we can assume that the faction that killed them has been expunged and the Taliban has decided to fight on -- otherwise they would have announced the martyrdom, no doubt fighting the American invaders or some such thing. If they aren't dead, this could be disinformation, but by whom and for what purpose is unclear. It hardly benefits the Taliban for these stories to get out. I think they should be asked to demonstrate unequivocally that they are alive. The United States should sic the White House press corps on the Taliban spokesman until we get some answers.
If bin Laden and Omar are alive, let them show themselves, preferably in an open area away from hospitals and mosques, on a clear day. Just stay there until we can confirm it.
Editor's note: The man who posted this, Milo, on CIA-drugs listserv, believes the American Free Press (formerly The Spotlight), ran this story for a day. The following day it disappeared from their site and archives. The powers that be just could not allow the public to know that Bin Laden was dead. They needed to keep him alive to fuel Bush's war.
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