Where In The World Is Bin Laden?

Hugh Jackman listens to the translation of a question in Spanish through headphones during a news conference for the movie "X-Men: The Last Stand," in Mexico City on Monday, May 15, 2006. An accomplished singer, Jackman won a Tony award for "The Boy From Oz" in 2004. AP

U.S. officials aren't 100 percent certain, but they believe this is the voice of Abu Gaith, the press secretary, if you will, for Osama Bin Laden. It surfaced earlier this month on an Arab television outlet.

The U.S. doesn't know when or where it was made. But the message is clear: "Sheikh Osama Bin Laden is in good health (and) those in command of al Qaeda are still carrying out their responsibilities."

Whether Bin Laden is alive or dead isn't certain, but as CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports U.S. officials see more and more signs that what Gaith had to say about al Qaeda is true.

In the last three months, al Qaeda has attacked a synagogue in Tunisia, bombed a church in Pakistan, blown up a bus carrying French workers and bombed the U.S. consulate in Karachi.

Chased from their hideout in the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan and defeated in a pitched battle at Gardez, al Qaeda fighters fled into the tribal areas of southern Pakistan and beyond. One cell has been arrested in Morocco planning to blow up allied warships. Another was caught in Saudia Arabia and tied to a missile attack on U.S. planes.

The events suggest to congressional terrorism analyst Ken Katzman that al Qaeda is momentarily bottled up.

"The only real successes they've been able to pull off … have been in the Arab and Islamic world," Katzman said. "They have not been successful when they've tried to make the transition into the West or the United States."

Although it is not for lack of trying, U.S. officials say alleged American al Qaeda operative Jose Padilla was seeking the aid of an al Qaeda network inside the U.S. before he was arrested in May. Analysts say it's not hard to guess the targets: commercial aviation or financial institutions like the Federal Reserve and the New York Stock Exchange.

Terrorists are more likely to target "something that's going to strike fear in the heart of the U.S. economy and depress U.S. economic activity," Katzman said.

Other measurements of the war, like the number of dead al Qaeda, are less clear. No one knows or is saying, but certainly the number is in the high hundreds, possibly thousands.

As for the number of al Qaeda in custody, President Bush has said, "the coalition we put together hauled in over 2,400 people."

But that's just an estimate. How about al Qaeda finances? Just before Sept. 11 al Qaeda members reportedly swapped their cash for gold, emeralds and other jewels, which are easy to trade in small amounts.

The harder thing to measure is the big strategic picture. Osama Bin Laden declared his Holy War on the U.S. with the stated goal of driving American forces out of the region. But analysts point out that the reality on the ground since Sept. 11 strongly suggests that Bin Laden's plan may have backfired.

"They wanted to get the U.S. out of the Middle East, out of the Islamic world and turn the Islamic world against the United States," Katzman said. "Actually, the exact opposite has happened.

"The U.S. military is now in countries no one ever dreamed of: in central Asia, in Pakistan, Yemen, the Phillipines."

Finally, however, there is this reminder from the al Qaeda spokesman:

"We are still in the first stages of the first battle of a war that will last a long, long time."
  • Jaime Holguin

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