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ClearDot.gif (85 bytes) Capturing Osama
. . . . . .
By Daniel  Pipes

Editor's Note: Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, is a member of the presidentially-appointed board of the U.S. Institute of Peace and a prize-winning columnist for the New York Sun and The Jerusalem Post. His most recent book, Miniatures: Views of Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics (Transaction Publishers), is available from the Triumph PC ONLINE Bookshop.

Daniel PipesOsama bin Laden’s capture or death, the focus of renewed U.S. military attention, would greatly help the war on terror – but not in the way you might expect.

It would not do that much to prevent jihadist violence.
True, in some cases, seizing a terrorist leader leads directly to a reduction in threat or even to the decomposition of his organization. Consider these examples:


  • Abimael Guzman, head of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) gang in Peru, was captured in 1992 and his Maoist organization went into a tailspin, ending its threat to overturn the government. A rump force in turn continued to fight until its leader, Oscar Ramirez Durand, was captured in 1999.
  • Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan (Worker's Party of Kurdistan) or PKK in Turkey, was captured in 1999 and his Maoist organization immediately deteriorated. When Öcalan called from captivity for the PKK to renounce its war against the Turkish state, it effectively did so.
  • Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq, was captured in December 2003, and the terrorist insurgency he headed over the previous eight months shuddered to an end. (In contrast, militant Islamic violence continued unabated.)

    Terrorist specialist Michael Radu points out that the same pattern also held with the capture of leaders of smaller terrorist groups, including Andreas Baader of Germany’s Rote Armee (Red Army) and Shoko Asahara of Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo. A similar steep decline, Radu notes, will likely recur should Velupillai Prabhakaran of Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) be captured or killed.

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