Thursday, July 3, 2008




Is Osama bin Laden dying again?

2. That is the headline under which many skeptic online journals of the world have carried a story of the Time magazine that some CIAanalysts believe that bin Laden is finally in his death bed due to a progressive deterioration of his kidneys. How did they come to thisconclusion? On the basis of source reports regarding the kind of medicines he is taking. It is said that these medicines can help him forsome time, but cannot prevent his death. If this report is to be believed, the count-down for his death has already started. At the same time,the magazine has added in its report that other CIA officials deny that any such report had been prepared in the CIA.

3. This report reminds one of a report carried by a French regional newspaper on September 23,2006, that according to the Frenchintelligence, bin Laden had died after a severe attack of typhoid. According to the newspaper, the French intelligence got the information ofbin Laden's death from its Saudi counterpart. Some weeks later, to the consternation of everybody, bin Laden came out with new audiomessages, which tended to prove that he was definitely alive, though he may not be quite that kicking.

4. His earlier imminent death was reported by the CNN on October 26,2002, when it carried the following report: "- The editor-in-chief of aLondon-based Arab news magazine said a purported will it published Saturday was written late last year by Osama bin Laden, and shows"he's dying or he's going to die soon." U.S. intelligence officials say they have the purported will, but are not able to say if it is genuine. CNNhas not been able to verify that the document is bin Laden's will. "He did write the will as someone saying good-bye," Hani Nakshabandi ofthe Arab news magazine Al Majalla told CNN. He said one of the magazine's reporters obtained the four-page document, said to be signed bythe leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network and dated December 14, 2001, in Afghanistan. In the document, which was translated for CNN,the writer expresses disappointment with the Taliban, who harbored him in Afghanistan, speaks of betrayal, and urges his children to shunal Qaeda. "Even amongst the students of religion, only few stood their ground and fought, and the rest either surrendered or fled," thedocument says, referring to the Taliban, according to a translation for CNN. Despite the setbacks, the purported will says, "We will bevictorious against the U.S. and the infidel West even if it takes tens of years." "My last advice is to the mujahedeen everywhere," thedocument says. "Take a breather and put aside for the time being, fighting the Jews and the Crusaders, and instead devote your efforts topurifying your groups from the agents and the cowards and those impostors who claim to be scholars amongst you."

5.It was apparent to anyone that this was a psywar operation carried out by the CIA in the hope of creating a divide between Al Qaeda andthe Taliban and confusion in their ranks. This was such a crude attempt that nobody took it seriously.

6. It has been reported since the middle 1990s that bin Laden was suffering from a kidney deficiency, which he developed when he was living in Khartoum before 1996 and that he required periodic dialysis. There were even reports that he was undergoing the dialysis in amilitary hospital in Peshawar. The Saudi media had even quoted one of his wives living in Saudi Arabia as saying that he was suffering froma kidney deficiency.

7. There has been speculation from time to time as to how he is getting his dialysis done now. Police sources in Pakistan discount American claims that he is in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) because, according to them, he would not be able to get his dialysis done regularly in the FATA. They, therefore, surmise that if he has been managing to get his dialysis done, he must be in one of the cities of Pakistan such as Peshawar or Quetta and not in the remote tribal areas.

8. What is the present state of his kidneys? Is his death approaching? Only the doctors treating him will know the answers to thesequestions. If the CIA really has access to these doctors or their staff, why is it not using them to catch him or kill him by administering wrongmedicines to him?

9. It is said that when he was the Prime Minister before October, 1999, Nawaz Sharif used to say that it would be in the interest of theinternational community that bin Laden died at the hands of his doctor rather than at the hands of the Americans. If he died at the hands ofthe Americans, he would become even a greater hero in the eyes of the Muslims. If he died at the hands of a doctor, the Ummah would forget him shortly thereafter.

10. Will bin Laden die definitively at least now---- to prove the CIA right?

11. Annexed is an article written by me on September 24,2006 on this subject..

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )



By B.Raman

The ultimate denouement in the Osama bin Laden saga will come about in one of the following ways:

He wins the jihadi war against the US-led coalition and is proclaimed either the Amir of the global Islamic Caliphate or at least of Saudi Arabia.

He is captured by the security forces of the US-led coalition or Pakistan or both acting together.

He is killed in a ground encounter or in an air strike by the US-led coalition or Pakistan or both.

He dies a natural death, without his adversaries being aware of it.

2. The first possibility can be ruled out as of today. In the eventuality of his capture, the security forces responsible for his capture wouldknow for certain. In the eventuality of his death in a ground encounter or an air strike, the proof will come in the form of the recovery of thedead body or from the interrogation of anyone of his associates captured during the encounter or by monitoring the communications of thesurvivors of the encounter or air strike. Where the dead body is not recovered, the intelligence agencies will be able to establish his deaththrough the other means (interrogation of associates or communications interception ) with two-thirds certainty, but not a hundred per centcertainty.

3.If he dies a natural death, the indicators would come either from the doctor or doctors, who had treated him or from one of his associates,who was with him at the time of his death---if any of them could be captured by the security forces--- or from his relatives in Saudi Arabia.

4. One had seen in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), where many Pakistani and other foreign jihadi terrorists operate, that the first indicator of thedeath of any foreign terrorist due to natural causes came from his home country when the local intelligence received information about therelatives holding a religious function to mark the death of the terrorist. Generally, reliable information about such religious functions beingheld in the home country are an important indicator of the death of the terrorist in a foreign land. Instances, where the relatives are told by aterrorist organisation to hold false religious functions to mislead the intelligence agencies and security forces are rare, but cannot be ruledout.

5. Bin Laden's health had been fragile for some years. He suffered from a kidney infection while he was living in Khartoum before 1996. Thisultimately affected the performance of his kidneys after he shifted to Afghanistan in 1996. Though it was not life-threatening, he had toundergo periodic dialysis in a Pakistani military hospital at Peshawar.

6. He suffered a splinter injury at the Tora Bora encounter in Afghanistan with the US security forces. This affected his speech and partiallyparalysed one of his limbs. In the beginning of 2002, after he had escaped into Pakistan from Afghanistan, the late Mufti NizamuddinShamzai of the Binori madrasa of Karachi, who was very close to bin Laden and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had him shiftedto the Binori complex with the permission of the ISI. He was being treated there till August 2002. He recovered his speech and the paralysiscaused by the splinter was reportedly cured.

7. When bin Laden was in the Binori complex, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad (KSM), who had orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US, andRamzi Binalshibh of Al Qaeda were also living clandestinely in Karachi, but at different places with the knowledge and connivance of the ISI.The US intelligence, which apparently came to know about the presence of Ramzi and KSM in Karachi, stepped up its search for them. Thisled to the capture of Ramzi, but KSM managed to escape to Quetta and from there he went to Rawalpindi where he was finally arrested inMarch, 2003, in the house of a woman functionary of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

8. In August, 2002, reports about the presence of OBL in Binori and his medical treatment there stopped coming. Subsequent enquiriesindicated that he had moved back to the tribal areas of Pakistan. He became active again recording many video and audio messages fortelecast by Al Jazeera and other TV channels and radio stations. He remained active till the eve of the US Presidential elections inNovember,2004, and then became incommunicado. There were no video or audio messages for 13 months.

9. There were reports of a deterioration in his health due to the kidney condition in 2005. During the Friday prayers in some of the mosquesof the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Mullas started reciting prayers for the good health of Osama's son. This gave rise tostrong speculation that bin Laden had died of a multiple organ failure arising from his renal problem.

10. Then suddenly, his audio messages started surfacing again since January 19,2006, but there were no video messages.Thus, his voicebecame the only indicator of his being alive. Since July, there has been no audio message either of current origin. Old pre-July messages ofhis continue circulating. Cut and paste versions of his pre-November,2004 video messages also continue circulating.

11.The speculation about his being alive or dead has again revived following the publication by L'Est Republicain, a French regionalnewspaper, on September 23,2006, of extracts from a document dated September 21,2006, of the French external intelligence agencystating that bin Laden died in Pakistani territory on August 23,2006, due to complications, including a paralysis, arising after a severe attackof typhoid. The information has been attributed to the Saudi intelligence sources, who reportedly came to know of it on September 4,2006.The Saudi services are reportedly trying to verify the information.

12. The fact that the French Government has reportedly ordered an enquiry into how the newspaper came into possession of a classifieddocument indicates that the document is probably genuine, but not necessarily the information contained in the document. One does notknow how the Saudi services came to know of this information.

13. If bin Laden had died in Pakistani territory while undergoing medical treatment there should be doctors in Pakistan who must havetreated him. In the past, the Pakistani authorities had detained a doctor of Lahore, who had returned from the US after working for someyears there, on a charge of providing medical assistance to Al Qaeda cadres injured in Afghanistan. He was ultimately released for want ofprosecutable evidence against him. The questioning of this doctor and other doctors, who were in the past suspected or known to havetreated ill or injured Al Qaeda and Taliban cadres might provide a useful lead.

14. It is possible that the Saudi intelligence services picked up the information from bin Laden's relatives in Saudi Arabia, who would know ifhe is dead. If the Saudi intelligence services had told the French about it, they would have definitely alerted the ISI and the US intelligencetoo.

15.The policy of the Western intelligence agencies has been to presume that bin Laden is alive and kicking, until he is proved to be dead.That proof is yet to come. Any evidence coming from his relatives in Saudi Arabia or from the doctors or others in Pakistan will be tentative.The only conclusive evidence will be a statement from Al Qaeda admitting his death.

16.If the report about his death is incorrect, one can shortly expect another audio message from him to prove to his followers that he isalive.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi,and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies,Chennai. )