How terrorists cope with their leader's death
May 11th, 2011
04:07 PM ET

How terrorists cope with their leader's death

Editor's Note: Brynjar Lia is a senior research fellow at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (FFI) and the author of several acclaimed books on militant Islamism. For more by Brynjar Lia, visit Foreign Affairs.

By Brynjar Lia, Foreign Affairs

Since 9/11, two schools of thought have emerged about Osama bin Laden’s role in al Qaeda. The first holds that after 2001 he was largely a symbolic and isolated figurehead. The other posits that he was the organization’s key inspirational and ideological leader. Yet the Pentagon’s initial leaks about the information found on the computers confiscated by Navy SEALs during their May 1 raid on bin Laden’s compound strongly suggest that he had attempted a more hands-on approach than both schools assumed - whether the rest of al Qaeda paid attention is another matter.


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Topics: Osama bin Laden • Terrorism