What's next for al Qaeda?

FILE - In this April 1998 file photo, exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden is shown in Afghanistan. A person familiar with developments on Sunday, May 1, 2011 says bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has the body. (AP Photo, File) AP

U.S. counter-terrorism officials have been planning all night for what may follow bin Laden's demise, reports CBS News senior foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

What they fear most is the "lone wolf scenario" -- individuals they cannot track and cannot do anything to stop who go into a public place and wreak havoc. Some of the most likely targets, officials say, could be areas where Americans are gathering to celebrate bin Laden's death, such as outside the White House or at Times Square.

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As far as larger-scale, better planned attacks go, Logan reports that Yemen remains the center of concern for American intelligence agencies. The Arab nation is home to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a branch of the terror network which the U.S. has said is "on the rise".

AQAP may use this as an opportunity to try shift the center of gravity of al Qaeda to there from Pakistan, even though they cannot be the spiritual center, says Logan.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born radical cleric known to work with AQAP in Yemen is "probably excited" by this opportunity, sources tell Logan.

In a telling sign, the first indication of confirmation from al Qaeda that bin Laden was killed came from one of the group's operatives in Yemen, speaking to the Al Arabiya television network.

The strike which killed bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan -- in a well-fortified luxury home just yards from a military training academy -- may well prompt the Asian nation to take more dramatic action against terrorist elements operating inside their borders, says Logan.

The group's core leaders in and around Pakistan will likely seek to maintain a lower profile in the wake of their leader's death, officials suggest. The rest will likely try to use the event to raise more money and recruit more followers.

The danger, says Logan, is that bin Laden's death may actually speed up the trend of recent years which has seen al Qaeda become increasingly decentralized, and therefore even harder to stop.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.


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