x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Poll reveals doubts over bin Laden death

Many in the GCC believe Pakistani intelligence knew of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts before he was killed this month.

Many people in the GCC believe that Osama bin Laden's hiding spot was no secret to Pakistani intelligence, a survey has found.

Bin Laden was killed on May 2 when US Navy Seals raided a compound in Abbottabad, 100 kilometres north of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. The compound was 800 metres away from one of the country's leading military academies.

The al Qa'eda leader was believed to have been living in the compound for eight years.

Of 1,142 GCC residents surveyed for Al Aan TV's Nabd al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj, three in five (61 per cent) of those who expressed an opinion said they believed that senior Pakistani military figures knew of bin Laden's whereabouts.

That such a view should be widespread came as no surprise to Abeer al Najjar, a media professor at the American University in Sharjah. "I assume it is because of the sympathetic relationship between Pakistan and Osama bin Laden," she said.

"There are other factors to consider, such as the location of the house. There is always a possibility that Pakistani intelligence didn't know, but it's unlikely."

The survey also highlighted widespread doubts over the details of bin Laden's death and its announcement by the US president, Barack Obama.

Nineteen per cent said they were "fairly sure" bin Laden had been killed. Twenty-nine per cent believed the person who had ben killed was someone else.

The survey was conducted between May 4 and 8.

Ali Mohamed, head of mass communication at UAE University, said his students remained sceptical despite al Qa'eda's conformation on May 6 of the killing.

"They still believe that he must be at large," Mr Mohamed said. "They don't want to believe he is dead."

Ms al Najjar said "the common opinion" was not a sign of any respect for bin Laden. "I think many people didn't want him killed. They didn't want him alive either. But they didn't want America to have that victory."

The survey revealed widespread disenchantment with al Qa'eda, with 38 per cent of respondents believing bin Laden's promise of a global war on the West led only to Muslim deaths. Twenty-eight per cent said bin Laden had alienated Muslims through the ideology of takfir - the practice of declaring people infidels.

"Al Qa'eda caused a lot of problems for Muslims; a lot of Muslims died because of them," Mr Mohamed said. "No government in the region supports in any way what al Qa'eda is doing."

Ms al Najjar said the demonstrations that have swept the Arab world in the past four months had discredited bin Laden's ideology.

"The notion of getting victory through fighting and violence has been replaced with peaceful, civilised revolutions."

Only 10 per cent of respondents said violent attacks would drop globally with bin Laden gone.

Maysoon Baraky, presenter of Nabd al Arab, said: "The survey shows that the Arab public does not believe the death of Osama bin Laden will decrease attacks by the extremists."

osalem@thenational.ae