Following Zarqawi Death, Hunt for Terrorist Leader Bin Laden Continues

Benjamin Sand

Pakistan has described the killing of Abu Musab al- the terrorist leader in Iraq, as a significant development in the global war on terror. But al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden continues to elude U.S., Afghan and Pakistani forces.

Zarqawi's death is being widely hailed both in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a major victory in the U.S.-led war against terror.

But a written statement released Thursday purportedly from the leader of the Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammad Omar, said Zarqawi's death would not weaken the fight against what the statement referred to as "crusader forces". The Taleban is closely allied with al-Qaida.

American, Afghan and Pakistani forces have been hunting al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and his associates, including Mullah Omar, throughout the region for nearly five years.

Military analyst and retired Pakistani General Talat Masood says, if anything, the news from Iraq will make it harder to find the militant leaders.

"It will not affect operational aspects of al-Qaida in this part of the world, but they will become more suspicious and more careful," he said.

Masood adds that bin Laden and his associates are already taking extraordinary measures to avoid detection.

The Saudi-born militant reportedly avoids using satellite phones and computers, communicating almost exclusively through hand delivered notes.

The hunt for bin Laden has focused primarily on the remote tribal regions on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The United States has some 23,000 troops in Afghanistan, most involved in the hunt for al-Qaida and for Taleban insurgents.

On this side of the border, Pakistan has more than 80,000 soldiers in the tribal regions to capture anyone fleeing the U.S.-led operations.

Pakistani military officials say they have captured more than 700 al-Qaida suspects, including several close aides to bin Laden.

But bin Laden himself remains out of reach. And, unlike Zarqawi, who reportedly sought publicity, the world's most-wanted terrorist is keeping a very low profile.

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