x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Bin Laden death to provoke terror: poll

Survey suggests most believe terrorism will continue whether al Qa'eda exists or not.

ABU DHABI // GCC residents are concerned that the killing last month of Osama bin Laden will only provoke his followers, a recent poll has found.

And whatever happens to al Qa'eda, bin Laden's terrorist network, few believe it will be the last group to commit terrorist acts in the name of religion.

Bin Laden was found and killed on May 2 at his home in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, close to a military camp.

Of 1,131 GCC residents surveyed for Al Aan TV's Nabd al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj, 52 per cent said they were indifferent to bin Laden's death. Of those who were concerned, more said it was a source of worry than relief.

Only seven per cent believed al Qa'eda would dissolve as a result of bin Laden's death, while 21 per cent thought the network would splinter into smaller groups.

The biggest number, 45 per cent, expected a new leader to emerge - a belief borne out on Thursday when the organisation's general command named Ayman al Zawahiri as its new leader.

Half of those surveyed believed the group would probably become more violent.

Matt Duffy, an assistant professor of communication and media science at Zayed University, said the results were not surprising.

"It's a valid concern that the reaction to Osama bin Laden's death is to seek revenge," he said.

"This is the sense we get through media."

But Kamal Hamidou, a media professor at UAE University, disagreed. He said al Qa'eda was "nothing now".

"They are no longer the big organisation we knew at the time [of 9/11]," he said.

"In the next five or 10 years, no one will believe them. Arabs will also fight them."

About four in 10 respondents (43 per cent) believe the United States is the country most vulnerable to future attacks, followed by Pakistan.

More than half the respondents (55 per cent) believed al Qa'eda's actions had harmed ordinary Muslims and a similar number (52 per cent) said they had harmed Muslims more than anyone else.

"Certainly many people in the world take the actions of terrorism and stereotype it to all Muslims," Mr Duffy said. "The 45 per cent who do not believe so is surprising."

When asked whether bin Laden's death would stop extremist attacks, 57 per cent feared it would not be the end of terrorists targeting civilians in the name of religion.

Mr Hamdiou said previous attacks were clear evidence that the group was also targeting Muslims.

"If you do a study of what al Qa'eda did, [it] did several operations in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, [it] harmed more Arabs and Muslims," he said.

Countries covertly using terrorist groups to further their aims was not new, he said. "This is what we call instrumentalisation," he said. "Maybe international powers use [terrorist groups] to achieve political goals."

Another media professor from a different university, who wished not to be named, suggested that some countries in the region, such as Iran, probably did endorse terrorist groups to their advantage.

Maysoon Baraky, presenter of Nabd al Arab, said the survey "clearly reflects an overwhelming concern that the death of bin Laden will not be end of extremist terrorism".

"The popular perception among the audience matches the reality on the ground: al Zawahiri has always been known as the more violent type among al Qa'eda seniors."

The margin of error for the GCC responses is three percentage points.

Although with 148 respondents the UAE sample was too small for statistically significant results to be discerned, the answers from the UAE were in every case in line with the GCC as a whole.

Polling was conducted between May 17 and 23

osalem@thenational.ae