Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Jihadi Websites, Disbelief and Vows of Revenge over Bin Laden's Death

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Jihadi Websites, Disbelief and Vows of Revenge over Bin Laden's Death

Article excerpt

Supporters of Osama bin Laden began posting on jihadi websites - Al Qaeda's main public relations arm on the Internet - within minutes of the announcement bin Laden had been killed.

Osama bin Laden's supporters around the world posted comments to jihadi websites and social media Monday that ran the gamut from disbelief and dismay to rage and vows of revenge - to hailing Al Qaeda's fallen leader as a martyr with quick assurances the fight would go on.

Minutes after President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed, online commentary began sprouting on a dozen or so jihadist websites or "forums" worldwide that constitute the main public relations arm of Al Qaeda on the Internet.

"There are three kinds of reaction so far - some deploring the death and writing about the martyrdom of bin Laden," says Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counterterrorism in Herzliya, Israel. "Others are talking about revenge for his death. Still others - including two Taliban spokesmen - have threatened retaliation.... It's a huge response, but for the moment we're seeing reaction mainly in the Western world."

Gauging Al Qaeda's support is important since bin Laden's death could profoundly influence its ability to raise funds and recruits and ultimately, experts say, the staying power of the organization's global affiliates. So analysts were reading the tea leaves for early signs of whether jihad supporters would fold and go home - or rally electronically behind the group's new leader.

"What I am looking for are signs of low morale among the rank- and-file," says Aaron Weisburd, field instructor for the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point and director of the Society for Internet Research in an e-mail interview.

Some supporters in shock

"It may take a little time before the buzz of OBL's martyrdom wears off and they sober up and face the fact that none of them are safe and that God may not be on their side."

"Some of his supporters appear to be in shock and just don't want to believe the news," concurs Aaron Zelin, a researcher at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., who overnight translated some Arabic statements into English and posted them to his own website, Jihadology, so researchers could study them.

"Others want to hold off until they've heard from their own sources rather than infidel news services. Some are happy to see bin Laden is now a martyr - others are making threatening statements and saying the tornadoes were advance retribution. …

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