Peter Hoskin

Osama Bin Laden is dead

Text settings

The manhunt is over, as is the man. After almost a decade since 11 September 2001, a decade of the Afghan conflict, Osama Bin Laden is dead. The Al Qaeda leader was shot by US forces, not in a dusty cave complex in the mountains, but at a large house north of Islamabad. Announcing the news last night, Barack Obama called it, "the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat Al Qaeda." It will surely be remembered as the most significant achievement of his Presidency, too.

Let's remember, though, that Bin Laden was not Islamist terror, just as Islamist terror is not Bin Laden. The fundamentalists are a diffuse and diverse poison. Even Al Qaeda itself has many chiefs and many bases of operation, from Afghanistan to Yemen. So while the death of their figurehead is a pulverising blow, it may not be a killing one. The worry is that it just provides an opportunity for other figureheads, for the next Bin Laden. And even if that's not the case, then Bin Laden will — you suspect — still live on as an inspiration for murder. Already, embassies have been put on alert, in fear of revenge attacks.

The world's most protracted post-mortem examination will begin today, focusing on everything from the role of Pakistan to the continuing functionality of Al Qaeda. Yet it is also a time to dwell on 9/11 and the convulsions since. The death of one man will barely sooth — much less erase — those tragedies. But, today, the death of one man is what we have got.