Fresh intel from the raid on bin Laden has revealed "numerous" leads on the location of his deputy, Ayman al Zawahri. Plus, more updates and photos. Plus, more updates below and full coverage of bin Laden.
New Intel on al Qaeda's No. 2
With Osama bin Laden gone, his chief deputy in al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahri, is the new top target for the U.S.—and he may be starting at a disadvantage. Files gathered from the raid on bin Laden’s Pakistan compound have turned up “positive intelligence” on Zawahri’s location, CBS News reported Friday. The CIA now has “numerous” leads on bin Laden’s No. 2, it says, uncovered from 2.7 terabytes of computer data taken out of the Abbottabad lair. But sources cautioned that capturing Zawahri may not be very easy because he’s likely to be on the run.
Obama Meets the SEALs: 'Job Well Done'
President Obama privately and personally thanked some of the Navy SEAL squad that killed Osama bin Laden in a trip on Friday to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Obama awarded the team with a Presidential Unit Citation, and congratulated them: "We are going to defeat al Qaeda. We have cut off their head," he said. "Job well done." The mood was reportedly celebratory among the troops at the base, who wore combat boots and broke out in occasional dance moves—not dampened by recent reports that al Qaeda is planning a retaliatory attack. Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, met with troops recently back from Afghanistan after meeting with the SEALs.
Bin Laden's House a Tourist Attraction?
Could there soon be a gift shop in Osama bin Laden’s former Pakistan compound? A regional government official, stumped at what to do with the fallen al Qaeda leader’s now-famous lair, has suggested turning the house into a tourist attraction. “One thing we’re hoping is that more tourists will come to visit now…This could be a blessing in disguise,” Abottabad’s assistant coordination officer told The Wall Street Journal, citing economic benefits. Already, large crowds have gathered around the place, making local police uneasy. In fact, a senior police official in the area said he wants to see the structure burned down immediately. The tourist-friendly outcome would seemingly not be favored by the U.S., either—bin Laden was buried at sea partly so that his grave would not become a shrine for followers.
Al Qaeda Confirms Bin Laden's Death
Al Qaeda appeared to confirm Osama bin Laden’s death in a statement, which was posted on jihadist Web forums on Friday and attributed to the terrorist organization. In the statement, the group also vowed retaliation against the United States and other nations. The statement says, bin Laden’s blood will be “a curse that chases the Americans and their agents, and goes after them inside and outside their countries…Soon—with help from Allah—their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears." U.S. officials said that analysts at the CIA were still trying to authenticate the message.
Photos: Inside bin Laden's Compound
Taliban Says bin Laden Raid Gives 'More Motivation'
A video obtained by Reuters in southern Afghanistan shows armed Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan saying that the killing of Osama bin Laden has only inspired them more to continue fighting until all foreign troops have left their country. Six Taliban fighters with their faces covered and armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and machine guns pose in the threatening video in front of an unknown compound with high mud walls. "If it is true that [Osama bin Laden] is dead, it will give us more motivation to continue our jihad," said one fighter. Another spoke to the camera and said "the martyrdom" of bin Laden "will not stop us from our goal. We will continue with the jihad and we will avenge our martyrs." The Taliban helped hide Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan until the U.S. invaded following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
More Rifts in Pakistan
Hundreds of Pakistani Islamic extremists rioted Friday morning against the killing of Osama bin Laden, with the warning that more figures like him would cause a holy war against the U.S. “Jihad against America will not stop with the death of Osama,” said cleric Fazal Mohammad Baraich in the southwestern city of Quetta. Some burned American flags amid shouts of “Down with America.” More protests were expected after Friday prayers and after the biggest Islamist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, called for mass demonstrations against what it called Pakistan’s role in the raid.
Despite bin Laden’s death, the root causes of extremism have not been addressed, at least according to many analysts. “The U.S. presence is acting as a rallying cry for these people,” said political analyst and director of an Islamabad-based thinktank Aasiya Riaz. “You’ll talk to many of these people who say things will not change in the region until the United States picks up and leaves.” Despite movements in developing Muslim countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, some say the perception in Pakistan and Afghanistan that there is a holy war against the U.S. sets them apart. “Bin Laden was a symbol and an illustration of a mind-set and ideology that lives on,” said Islamabad human-rights activist Tahria Abdullah.
The Pakistani military and government warned the U.S. against future raids, saying the alliance between the two countries could be put in jeopardy. This warning came as a senior U.S. defense official said Pakistan would have to take “very concrete and visible steps” to keep Congress from stopping the $3 billion annual military and economic assistance provided to that country. But the White House said they are trying to determine the meaning behind Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Kayani—especially since the U.S. government has received no formal request to withdraw troops.
The Pakistani government may be using sharp words against Washington, but their paid lobbyists have gone to work on securing support. Alarmed by lawmakers’ demands to cut of billions of dollars of U.S. aid, President Asif Ali Zardari has deployed thousands to lobbyists to work on Congress. Mark Seigel, a partner in the Washington lobbying firm of Locke Lord Strategies—which is paid $75,000 a month by the Pakistani government—said he had spoken to Zardari twice since bin Laden’s death five days ago, and the Pakistani government is “certainly concerned.”
Bin Laden’s presence in the wealthy suburb of Islamabad only reinforced many in Washington’s deep distrust of Pakistan. This distrust is apparently echoed by a majority of Americans, at least according to a recent poll. The Christian Science Monitor / TIPP poll found that 72 percent of Americans agree with the statement “Pakistan knew all along” where bin Laden was hiding, while only 14 percent disagreed and 13 percent were not sure. About half the respondents said they U.S. should “stay on course” in Afghanistan following the discovery that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, and less than a third said bin Laden’s death should be enough to declare “mission accomplished”—and another 16 percent said they felt the U.S. should “intensify operations” in Afghanistan, with the goal of eliminating the Taliban.
A Secret CIA Facility
The CIA operated a safe house in Abbottabad for months to track and watch Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials revealed on Thursday. The secret facility was one of the most delicate human intelligence gathering missions in CIA history, and it relied on Pakistani informants and other sources to establish a “pattern of life” portrait of the terrorist and those who lived with him on his compound. The on-the-ground effort was so extensive and costly that the CIA had to go to Congress in December for tens of millions of dollars within assorted agency budgets to fund it, officials said. Officials said “you’ve got give [bin Laden] credit” for the way he tried to hide in plain sight—having abandoned the bodyguards, multiple SUVs, and other security precautions he used only ten years earlier.
As more days go by since bin Laden’s death, the account of the deadly raid has changed several times—with some saying the White House was desperate to paint a picture of national security triumph. “There has never been any intent to deceive or dramatize,” said one military official. “Everything we put out we really believed to be true at the time.” Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman, said the middle of the night, “hectic operation,” and early versions accounted for the differences. Despite the Vietor pointing the human error, the shifting accounts has created some mistrust on what really went down. White House officials, sources said, were eager to get out the first account of the raid—especially knowing that the Pakistani spy agency, the ISI, would soon deliver a version.
A computer recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound revealed al Qaeda was working on a plan to attack the U.S. rail systems on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, the FBI said Thursday. Officials stressed they had no indication that this had gone anywhere behind the planning stages. To be on the safe side, the FBI warned local authorities to watch train tracks for missing “clips or spokes” and “concrete blocks or tree limbs placed on tracks.” Intelligence officers are mining the trove of computers, discs and hard drives found at the terrorist leader’s Pakistan compound in the raid that killed him.
President Obama told Steve Kroft that the U.S. does not need to have “the perpetual footprint of the size that we have now” of troops in Afghanistan. Part of a 60 Minutes interview that will air on Sunday, May 8, the president confirmed there will be a drawdown of troops starting in July, a goal made easier to obtain with the death of Osama bin Laden. “We are transitioning; we’re training Afghan forces, so that they can start security in their own country,” Obama said. In the interview, Obama also said that even without releasing the photos, there is “no doubt” bin Laden is dead.
Bin Laden: Broke?
A senior Pakistani official said Friday that bin Laden was “cash strapped” in his final days and his terrorist organization had split into two factions. The stronger of the two factions, the intelligence official said, is being led by Ayman al-Zawahri. But some took this advice with a grain of salt, since Pakistan could be deflecting from its recent battered image.