Libyan rebel says Osama bin Laden's death won't stop jihadist flow
'Al Qaeda [is] getting more and more organized and bringing people [to Libya] from abroad,' says the rebel, who has been contacted by militants wanting to fight against Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
Thousands of miles away from where Osama bin Laden was killed, on a remote chain of Libyan mountains that crown the Sahara Desert, there comes a warning: the ideology of Al Qaeda is certain to outlast the group’s most famous leader.Skip to next paragraph
“I am happy that Osama bin Laden is dead, because he represents the wrong face of Islam and the root of destruction,” says Mazen Naluti, a Muslim believer in the Libyan opposition city of Nalut, 20 miles from the Tunisian border. “But I am sad because [he] died without recanting this ideology.”
This believer, a Libyan rebel whose real name could not be used for security reasons, repudiates extremism. But he fears that the persistence of the reasons that first gave rise to Al Qaeda’s worldview mean that in Libya and beyond the ideology will not be stopped. Already, says Mr. Naluti, the NATO-led conflict against Col. Muammar Qaddafi – begun six weeks ago and with no end in sight – is opening the door to foreign jihadists. The longer it lasts, the greater problem it becomes.
“Al Qaeda [is] getting more and more organized and bringing people [to Libya] from abroad,” says the believer, adding that he has been contacted by militants wanting to fight in his homeland. He has not joined the frontline against forces loyal to Qaddafi because he says Muslims should not kill Muslims. "This is a great land for Al Qaeda. There are a lot of opportunities for them here. They are not far away in Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt."
And the death of Bin Laden won’t change that, he adds: “For Islamic organizations leadership doesn’t mean much, ideology does. Leadership is just a soul that comes and goes. Ideology stays.”
“Now that Bin Laden is dead, a lot of leaders in the shade will come out … and will be smarter than him and better than him,” says Naluti. “Al Qaeda will continue. The clash of civilizations will continue.”
That is the assumption of Al Qaeda itself, which on Monday vowed to avenge the killing of Bin Laden, the “Sheikh of Islam.”
Al Qaeda weakened, but not finished
“The battle between us and international tyranny is long and will not be stopped by the martyrdom of our beloved one, the lion of Islam,” said a top Al-Qaeda ideologue in the first jihadist statement to confirm Bin Laden’s death, as translated by the Associated Press. “How many martyrdom seekers have [been] born today?”
Al Qaeda has suffered defeats in Iraq and across the Islamic world in recent years, and is seen by many as a spent force that can no longer muster the organization and trained militants needed to carry out spectacular attacks like those of 9/11.
Further proof of Al Qaeda’s demise is seen in the pro-democracy Arab awakening, in which secular people-power revolutions from Tunisia and Egypt to Syria and Yemen have rendered Al Qaeda’s religious brand of jihad irrelevant by showing that there is a different, more effective way to bring down unjust autocratic rulers.
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But the views of Naluti, who studied Islam in Yemen and was jailed years for his religiosity, are instructive in understanding how Al Qaeda will continue beyond Bin Laden.