05/03/2011, 00.00
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For Afghans, Osama Bin Laden was just a murderer and a “bad Muslim”

by Ashraf Zamani
President Karzai gives unforgiving assessment of Osama Bin Laden, a view shared by his compatriots, especially in Kabul. For many Afghans, he was a bad Muslim. Still for others, he remains a hero who stood up to Western powers. Most people are however concerned more about joblessness and poverty.
Kabul (AsiaNews) – Osama Bin Laden’s death did not spark any street protests, either in favour or against the slain terrorist leader. Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday described him as the murderer of Afghans, an opinion shared by many of his compatriots who view him as a bad Muslim. Now, many wonder how the spring campaign launched on Sunday by Taleban terrorists with a series of attacks, with dead and wounded, will unfold.

“He was the most hateful person. He was not only an enemy of the world, but of Islam too," a Kabul resident told newspapers. For another, Bin Laden was not “a good Muslim” because Islam is against “killing other Muslims and innocent people” like women, children and the old. In fact, Afghans are quick to point out that when a suicide bomber die.

If in Kabul many condemn the Saudi-born terrorist leader, elsewhere he is still viewed as an Islamic hero who fought against great Western powers, in places like Jalalabad, a town some 100 kilometres from where he died.

Times, however, have changed since 2002-2003 when people could buy Osama t-shirts. Now, according to many experts, most people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, consider him a terrorist, not a martyr.

In Pakistan, the Foreign Office said scores of Al Qaeda-sponsored terrorist attacks killed more than 5,000 security officials and almost 30,000 Pakistani civilians in attacks carried out in the last few years.

For President Karzai, Bin Laden is a killer of Afghans, noting that the Pakistani city, Abbotabad, where he was killed, is not far from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and that the compound where he was hiding was only a few hundred metres from a key Pakistani military academy. Terrorism’s strongholds are, he explained, in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, not in Afghanistan.

More than 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s districts remain however under varying influence or control of the insurgents. In fact, the president renewed his invitation to the Taliban to cease fighting and open talks with the government. On the other hand, no one in Afghanistan thinks that Bin Laden’s demise will spell the end of al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorism.

They point out that al Qaeda’s number 2, Egyptian-born physician Ayman al-Zawahri, is still alive and that he had already become the effective leader of the organisation before Bin Laden’s death.

What is more, other terrorist groups, like Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali, Mauritania and North Africa, have been more active than al Qaeda.

Thus, observers expect the Taliban to continue their spring offensive, which they launched on Sunday with a series of attacks, bombings and shootings that left scores of people dead or wounded.

Among Afghans, economic and social problems occupy most of their time. Unemployment is a major headache as is the lack of decent housing and essential services (health care and education).

Afghanistan's unemployment rate is estimated to be at least 30 per cent and thousands of young men enter Iran and Pakistan illegally every year in search of work.

“Many young people frustrated by the lack of work turn to the Taleban as a last resort to avoid joblessness and poverty,” a source told AsiaNews. “Or they turn to growing poppies or working in the opium trade.”

Ultimately, “Western countries can score some success against terrorism, but in Afghanistan they are losing the war for democracy and against poverty.”

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