9 May 2012

Nigeria: Fighting Terror, American Style

Photo: Derk Segaar/IRIN
AU soldiers cleaning their guns.


IT was a year last week since, on till then, the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Ladin was killed by American Special Forces, specifically the Seals.

It was more or less a Labour Day gift by American President, Barak Obama, to the rest of the world, for Bin Ladin was killed just a day after May Day, last year.

I recall getting an sms text message from a friend telling me of the killing of the man responsible for the deaths of many and whose profile as the scourge of America had risen in the previous 10 years since 9/11. Before his death, Osama Bin Ladin had assumed the character of the proverbial cat with nine lives.

He had eluded capture for 10 good years and it was as if he could no longer be caught. So that when the end came for him it was practically unbelievable. Osama Bin Ladin dead? The news was shocking precisely because it was unexpected. As it must have been for the most wanted man himself.

A reconstruction of Bin Ladin's last days suggests that death caught him unawares and in the most improbable place-Abouttabad, the location of one of Pakistan's most prestigious military bases. Contrary to the popular impression that the man lived his days running from one cave to another in the rugged, dessert-like terrain of the frontier regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama Bin Ladin was found ensconced apparently in relative wealth in a Pakistani suburb.

After 10 years of playing the fugitive, Bin Ladin must have come to believe that he could never be caught again, totally making nonsense of America's claim of possessing the most sophisticated military and intelligence-gathering network. But like a brood of hen suddenly rendered motherless when a hawk swooped on the entire brood and flies off with their mother, Osama Bin Ladin was picked clean from among his family.

Not even his attempt to hide behind his wives could save him from the fierce wrath of the Americans who landed their aircraft right in his large compound where he reared goats and chickens to cushion the biting effects of poverty, it's been revealed.

Though he lived his last days in a mansion which gave all the impression of a wealth from the outside, life behind the high walls of his hideaway was far from ideal. Even if he had talked about death and his readiness to go as a jihadist on the battlefront many times before death came knocking- like Saddam Hussein, time had blunted that raw desire for martyrdom when the two-dozen American Seals team came calling. In the end, the Americans did for Osama Bin Ladin, triumphed over him when it looked like the man had become invincible.

Last week, Barack Obama, the man who ordered the final mission that brought Osama to his end celebrated America's victory over their most hated adversary with a visit to Afghanistan where the search for Ladin first began following the levelling of the World Trade Centre in a series of planned attacks, more or less an invasion, of America. Nearly three thousand of different nationalities died.

Al Qaeda boasted of its triumph and promised more devastating attacks in the time ahead. But America had been stung beyond understanding and there was palpable blood-lust on their part. They wanted the man responsible for the worst attack on their soil, dead or alive and the organisation he led totally annihilated. To a large extent, America has achieved its aim in this regard with the killing of Osama Bin Ladin and most of the leadership of Al Qaeda whose ability to carry out its promised threat against America and all those opposed to it had been severely downgraded.

Only offshoots of Al Qaeda like the Al Shabaab with its base in Somalia but causing devastation along the Horn of Africa and the misguided group that professes hatred of Western education operating in Nigeria and other vulnerable parts of the world- only straggler groups such as these are still left foraging the fields of terror and hawking mindless violence around.

The latter group has in the last couple of weeks taken its campaign of violence into one of the leading centres of learning in Northern Nigeria, Bayero University, Kano, where not less than 20 persons, including two professors were murdered in cold blood by men who threw grenades into their places of worship and shot indiscriminately, 'commando-style', into the fleeing worshippers. But America can beat its chest and say it has since last May scattered Al Qaeda and its leadership into the winds.

Though, it hasn't called it a celebration but Americans, in a sense, registered their triumph over Al Qaeda with Obama's unannounced visit to the Bagram military base in Afghanistan where the American President signed an agreement with Afghanistan and made a live broadcast to the American people.

It is a measure of Obama's success on the World stage and in America's fight against what it calls 'the war on terror' that even his Republican opposition, particularly Mitt Romney, could not raise a voice to criticize him in a way that might suggest weakness or reluctance to take on America's enemies on his part.

Obama deserves all the attention he is getting on the world stage because his decision to invade the Bin Ladin's compound without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities and the full agreement of his advisers could easily have backfired. For one, Joe Biden - the Vice President - and Christopher Gate - the Defence Secretary - were opposed to the decision.

Past failures along this line gave the Americans cautionary lessons that rejected invasion as an option. This fear appeared to come true when the Seals' aircraft went down in Bin Ladin's compound. But the highly trained Seal team went into action, steadily made their way up to the third floor where their prime target was.

The decision to invade and the professionalism of the Seals were acts of courage largely absent from Nigeria's own reaction to increasing threats to security in the country. Suicide missions have become daily affairs, indiscriminate and with neither focus nor principle.

The terrorists act in full conviction that their prey neither has the means nor will to fight back. They are emboldened by every successive act of vicious murders and until the authorities are ready to turn the tide against these hawkers of death and destruction, Nigeria cannot expect peace.

The desire to constantly be in the news that seems to motivate resent actions by Nigeria's version of Al Qaeda should be rejected by the media which should increasingly black them out while officers of the law entrusted with the task of fighting this copycat Jihadists should refrain from disclosing their strategies in the media.

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