Middle East News
Bin Laden's death gives birth to conspiracy theories
By Aya Batrawy May 2, 2011, 17:21 GMT
Cairo - News of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of US special forces was met with disbelief and confusion in Cairo, the Middle East's most populous city.
US President Barack Obama's announcement that bin Laden had been killed and 'justice has been done' has given birth to a number of conspiracy theories about the timing of the announcement and US interests in the region.
The silence of officials throughout the Arab world, with only a few unnamed sources leaking statements to state-owned media, raised further doubts about the veracity of bin Laden's death.
Political science professor Ibrahim el-Nur, who teaches at the American University in Cairo, said: 'I have never had sympathy for bin Laden, but from a human perspective and from a Muslim perspective, a human was killed so I'm not happy about it.'
Ali Hussein, an unemployed 24-year-old, said, 'I am not convinced he's dead.'
Hussein said that he thinks the US announcement was a way to put pressure on Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, who has claimed that al- Qaeda is behind the uprising in his country.
'It's a way to threaten Gaddafi and make him surrender,' said Hussein.
An older photograph of bin Laden in a white turban and wearing a military jacket resurfaced online, placed next to one that is reportedly the latest photograph showing his disfigured face.
Both images depict similar facial expressions, only highlighting allegations that the photograph circulating online of bin Laden's body has been digitally altered.
Yara Mohsen, a 20-year-old architectural engineering student, questioned the timing of the announcement.
'Who said he wasn't already dead? Is it really him? Why now?' she asked. If bin Laden is really dead, it only marks the beginning of a new era in terrorism, she said.
'If he's that strong, his death won't mean anything because there are probably many people behind him and there will be another new bin Laden,' she added.
For Mohsen and many other Egyptians, Western 'interference,' including foreign occupation and years of alliances with despotic rulers, has created a breeding ground for al-Qaeda to recruit throughout the Muslim world.
Others argue that the United States is the reason for the creation of bin Laden, with the CIA having trained and armed him to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Bin Laden was never a symbol of a terrorist network, but rather a longtime US ally from the days when the CIA trained him, said Ahmed el-Yamany, a sales associate at a multinational company.
'If he is really dead, I think he was a CIA agent not a US enemy,' said el-Yamamy.
A strong distrust of US interests in the region coupled with a perception that the United States favours Israeli interests over Middle East peace served to stifle any outpouring of joy over the news of bin Laden's death.
Political activist Perihan Abouzaid said, 'There is something about bin Laden's death that I am just not comfortable with.'
She said, 'Maybe it's the fact that he was killed by Americans,' and added that she did not believe that bin Laden's death was a triumph over terrorism.
For others, bin Laden was a charismatic figure who often used Arabic prose and verses from the Koran in his speeches.
In contrast to the many Arab leaders who are now facing popular uprisings and accusations of corruption, following the recent toppling of the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia, the al-Qaeda leader was noted for giving up his family's wealth in his home country of Saudi Arabia to fight the Western occupation of Arab and Muslim lands.
'Bin Laden was fighting for a noble cause in a way that was not noble,' said Mahmoud Bizzari, a banker.
Norhan Sherif, a journalism student, said she believed the US created bin Laden's image to 'start its war on terrorism.'
'I don't think that they killed him,' she said. 'Obama is glorifying himself because of the upcoming elections (for president in 2012).'
Echoing that sentiment, Ahmed el-Naggar, an accountant for a regional mobile service provider, said Obama made the announcement now to help sway voters for his re-election campaign.
'This is just a propaganda for Obama's elections. Why didn't they capture him?' asked el-Naggar.
For others, bin Laden's death means little either way.
'It's too late. His legacy is there and he was just a symbol,' said political science student Dania Ghonim.
Walid Fathy, a 38-year-old doorman, said he was happy bin Laden was dead, but for a different reason than that expressed in the Western world.
'He was giving the United States an excuse to kill Muslims around the world,' said Fathy. 'Thank God he is dead.'
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