Consider this analysis from CBS’ John Miller a good news/bad news update on al-Qaeda’s efforts twelve years after the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. On one hand, the new leadership lacks the charisma of Osama bin Laden and the network lacks the capability for large-scale strikes, although Ayman al-Zawahiri’s anniversary screed certainly hopes to generate them. However, the reactions to “lone wolf” attacks like the Boston Marathon fit nicely into AQ’s strategy even if they can’t generate the kind of massive body counts Zawahiri desires:
Unlike previous messages released by al Qaeda to mark the anniversary of 9/11, Zawahri’s message was relatively modest, including none of the usual file video of the actual attacks, no pictures of the Twin Towers in smoke in the background, and no recycled clips of the Sept. 11 plane hijackers.
It was instead limited to audio of Zawahri, who, just 17 minutes into the hour-and-12-minute recording, shifted topics entirely to issues surrounding the setbacks suffered by Islamist movements in the Middle East — particularly countries where Arab Spring-inspired uprisings brought Islamist-friendly regimes to power. …
CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, who worked previously at a senior level in the FBI and the office of the National Intelligence Director and once met Zawahri at a camp in Afghanistan, said Friday on “CBS This Morning” that Osama bin Laden’s replacement and former deputy lacks his predecessor’s communications skills, and his message may reveal a tinge of desperation.
“He’s looking at the Boston Marathon bombing, which was a terrorist attack but rather small. He’s seen the profound effect it’s had on Boston and he wants more,” said Miller. “To me, the tacit admission is that al Qaeda does not feel it’s in the position, organizationally, do what it used to do, which is organize and launch it themselves.”
“I think he lacks the charisma of bin Laden,” added Miller. “He’s an Egyptian pediatrician and he’s a smart guy, but his message hasn’t resonated.”
The lockdown in Boston during the manhunt after the marathon bombing attracted a lot of criticism for this very point. It provided an outsized reaction to the danger of what in the end were two murderers, one of whom died in the chase and the other wounded. In fact, it was arguably counter-productive; only after the curfew got lifted did a man notice that someone had tampered with the tarp on his boat and called police, who then captured Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A more phlegmatic approach might provide less encouragement for wanna-be lone wolves later. That’s easy to postulate, though, from a thousand miles or more from Boston and a few months after the fact.
The other case mentioned by CBS in this report is the rumor that an American traitor, Omar Shafik Hammami, has been killed off by rivals in his own al-Shabaab network in Somalia. It’s not the first time Hammami’s assassination has been rumored, but this looks a little more solid:
An American-born jihadist fighting for an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has allegedly been killed by the terror group, months after a public spat between the Alabama-raised man and the group’s leadership.
Omar Hammami, known in the terrorist organization of al-Shabaab as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki and featured in a recent ABC News report, was gunned down in an al-Shabaab ambush in Somalia’s southern Bay region, according to another member of the terror group cited in a report by The Associated Press. Agence France Presse reported similar circumstances for Hammami’s alleged death, based on sources in the region.
Hammami has been reported dead several times before, but an African diplomat in the region and an American terrorism expert who has been in contact with Hammami told ABC News the reports are very likely true this time. Two senior U.S. officials said the American intelligence community is “cautiously optimistic” the reports are accurate, but they have not been confirmed.
I doubt his father’s reaction will win him any friends in Florida:
“Of course I hope not, I hope it’s not true,” Shafik Hammami told ABC News in a telephone interview from his Alabama home. “Our lives have been on a roller coaster for a long time, and we’ve been there before… we just hope that it’s not true this time.”
If the reports are accurate, however, Shafik said his son died “fighting for his principles.”
“He did what he wanted to do and he fulfilled his principles,” Shafik said. “If he indeed died, he died fighting for his principles, whatever they are.”
Well, those principles were to murder innocent civilians to score political and theological points, which is why the rest of us aren’t really all that impressed.