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One should never rejoice in the demise of a fellow human being but it’s difficult not to agree that Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al’Quaeda, got what was coming to him. The long-serving former second in command to Usama bin Laden met his maker when two US Hellfire missiles slammed into his balcony in Kabul where he was taking the early morning air and now he is no more. Those who live by the sword tend to die by the sword, and few tears will be shed.
That he was a baddy there is no doubt. As second-in-command to Usama bin Laden his fingerprints were all over some infamous terrorist attacks including the suicide boat attack on the American destroyer USS Cole in October 2000 while she was in harbour at Aden. Seventeen US sailors were killed and another thirty-seven injured. And, of course, he was involved in the planning for 9/11.
It took ten years to track down and eliminate bin Laden and eleven years to do the same with al-Zawahiri. Both men were careful in their movements and stayed away from satellite phones and internet communications which might have given away their whereabouts. And yet the US tracked both of them down eventually. In bin Laden’s case they followed the courier he used to deliver messages to his followers back to his lair in Abbottabad in Pakistan. Al-Zawahiri was spotted by agents on the ground in Kabul, or so it seems.
What does this tell us? Well, first, that being an international terrorist militates against living a long and happy life. Most are either killed or captured in the fullness of time, and it tends to be a short career. But, more importantly perhaps, it tells us that there are few hiding places and that the long arm of international justice will get them in the end. It’s not a career path that I would recommend.