Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, comments on the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He spoke by phone from Singapore today.
On how it will affect al-Qaeda:
“It is a demonstration that al-Qaeda and its associated groups have suffered very significantly in the most recent past, and it’s also a demonstration that the momentum of operations against al-Qaeda has increased.
“In the immediate term, there will be some retaliation, there will be some revenge attacks. In the long term, the world will be much safer without bin Laden. And it will also send a clear message to his supporters and his followers that terrorists can run but they cannot evade capture or death, that governments will eventually get them.
“After 9/11 he was more a spiritual rather than operational leader. But before 9/11 he was both operational and a spiritual leader,” for al-Qaeda.
Bin Laden’s death “will not affect the operational structure because Ayman al-Zawahiri has assumed leadership of operations.”
On U.S.-Pakistan relations:
“The cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan has been extensive despite western media speculation that Pakistan is supporting terrorism. More than 600 al-Qaeda members have been killed or arrested in Pakistan, so Pakistan has been an ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.”
On al-Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia:
“Al-Qaeda links with Jemaah Islamiyah have come under pressure, but certainly al-Qaeda continues to maintain a relationship with Jemaah Islamiyah.
“But compared to what it was immediately after 9/11, the al-Qaeda presence in this region has diminished, and also governments in this region have developed significant capabilities to fight terrorism. Today the region is much safer compared to what it was.
“Indonesia is the main center of terrorism in the region. There are a number of terrorist groups, extremist groups operating in Indonesia and the Indonesian governments needs to develop a sustained effort.”