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How Obama fulfilled Osama's dreams

April 30, 2012 15:04 IST

A year after Osama bin Laden's death, Al Qaeda is determined to stay alive, feels Hamid Mir, the last journalist to interview bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden always wanted to become a martyr like his old friend, Shafiq-al Madni.

I first heard about Shafiq from Osama in 1997. I was the first Pakistani journalist to meet Osama in March 1997 and I was the last journalist to interview him, seven weeks after 9/11.

I started writing his biography in 1998 and asked him about the people who had impressed him a lot and created a big impact on his life.

Osama said he was lucky to have brave friends like Shafiq-al Madni who loved martyrdom.

Shafiq, who hailed from Madina, was a very good soccer player, but joined the jihad against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan along with Osama. He remained on the frontline during the battle for Jalalabad in 1989.

Shafiq wanted a unique and different kind of martyrdom. Once he told Osama: 'Oh my Sheikh Osama, please pray that when I become a martyr, the stomachs of birds and animals should become my grave. I don't want to be buried in the ground; I want that on the day of judgment, birds and animals should tell Allah Almighty that the body of Shafiq al-Madni was torn into pieces by the enemies of Islam because he was fighting in the name of Allah.'

Shafiq, Osama told me, was very good at destroying Soviet tanks with his RPGs. One day in 1989, Shafiq and two other Arab fighters were trapped by the Soviets during the battle for Jalalabad. The three men tried to escape, but were surrounded from all sides.

Shafiq, who was senior to the other two fighters, decided to provide his compatriots cover and ordered them to escape. He destroyed the Soviet tank in front of him, but became the target of another tank on his left. His body was torn to small pieces. His dream came true.

He was killed on enemy territory. He was not buried in a grave. The stomachs of birds and animals became his ultimate grave.

Osama told me: 'Allah Almighty fulfilled Shafiq al-Madni's dream, he became a martyr. I pray to Allah that I should also become a martyr like Shafiq al-Madni who never wanted to be buried in the ground.'

Osama was so impressed with his friend that he bought a speedboat and docked it at the bin Laden marina in Jeddah harbour. He named the boat after Shafiq al-Madni.

The boat's engine was replaced with a more powerful engine. This Shafiq al-Madni boat was the first step in Al Qaeda's marine operations.

Osama loved the oceans. He never imagined that the US would bury him at sea and that he would not be buried in a grave like his friend Shafiq al-Madni.

The Obama administration never provided a grave to Al Qaeda, but it certainly gave Al Qaeda a martyr.

The Pakistani authorities have demolished bin Laden's house in Abbotabad where he was killed on May 2, 2011, but Al Qaeda is not demolished.

The Obama administration fears Dr Ayman al Zawahri, Al Qaeda's new leader, is present in Pakistan, but there is a lack of cooperation between Pakistan and the US against Al Qaeda after the Abbottabad operation and the November 2011 attack on the Salala check- post where 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a US drone attack.

Pakistan never gave the CIA full access to interrogate Osama's family. His large family were handed over to the Saudi authorities a few days ago. The Pakistanis were careful because they feared a serious backlash from Al Qaeda.

They knew many Al Qaeda leaders are hiding quietly in big cities like Karachi and they could become a big danger anytime.

Why are the Pakistanis not ready to underestimate Al Qaeda? They know Al Qaeda operatives started traveling from Karachi to Afghanistan after the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi last May.

These Al Qaeda operatives helped the Afghan Taliban launch attacks on NATO forces in a more organised manner. They also advised the Taliban not to listen to Pakistan and start a dialogue with the US. Most of these Al Qaeda operatives are not active militants, but they have become terror consultants.

Incidents like the desecration of the holy Quran in Afghanistan and the detention of Pakistani scientist Afia Siddiqui in a US prison are enough for Al Qaeda's terror consultants to exploit the religious sentiments of Muslim youth.

The Obama administration must tell the world what motivated American Muslims like Sami Osmakac and Amine El Khalafi to organise terror attacks in the US. Both these young men were arrested in January and February in the US. They had never visited Pakistan or Afghanistan, they had never met any Al Qaeda leader, even so, they developed a hatred against the US.

If young men living in the US can develop a hatred for America, then what about those boys who live in Afghanistan and Pakistan who see the occupation forces and who participate in the burials of innocent children and woman killed in US drone attacks?

It is this pressure from angry young men which stopped the senior Taliban leadership from opening formal negotiations with Washington.

The US prevented more than 50 terror attacks on its soil since 9/11, but Afghanistan and Pakistan are not America. These two countries are the biggest victims of the US war against terrorism since 9/11 and are still unsafe a year after Osama bin Laden's death.

One can differ with Al Qaeda's ideology, but this ideology is getting stronger because of US policies. The combination of flawed US policies and dangerous Al Qaeda ideology creates angry youg men who want to become martyrs like Shafiq al-Madni and Osama bin Laden.

Obama could throw Osama bin Laden's body in the deep sea, but he cannot drown Al Qaeda's ideology in the sea. If the US and its allies want to prevent Al Qaeda attacks in the future they must dump their bad policies.

The least America should do is punish the US soldiers responsible for the burning of the holy Quran in Bagram; punish the soldier who killed many innocent people in Kandahar and punish the officers who organised the attack on the Salala check-post.

Don't protect these Americans, Mr Obama, or you will fulfill the dreams of Osama bin Laden.

Also Read: A year later: Al Qaeda refuses to die with Osama
The Osama I knew
How Osama has survived for six years

Hamid Mir