Osama bin Laden’s death prompted Americans to pop champagne corks and party in flash mobs at the White House. His supporters on the internet had an altogether different response: anger, silence and suspended belief.
“As a cover-up to its catalog of failures, the enemy always tries to distract the attention of not only the supporters of the Jihad and the Mujahedeen,” cries Abu Ali Assadiq, one moderator of the Somalia-oriented jihadi forum Al-Qimmah.
Reports of Bin Laden’s demise are “a new barefaced lie that happens to be proved wrong in no time at all,” Assadiq adds. “So, we would like to inform our brothers not to go into discussion about the current rumors till an official statement from the Mujahedeen themselves.”
“Official” confirmation from al-Qaida’s leadership could take a while, though. Concerns over operational security have made what used to be an agile group pretty slow and clunky in its official communications. They’ve had trouble getting out in front of the biggest stories.
Meanwhile, some members of the elite jihadi online forums are already itching for payback. “Let his enemies be miserable,” one commenter on the Shumukh al-Islam forum says of Bin Laden. “For by Allah, we will take our revenge.”
But other leading sites are curiously quiet. One of the most visible English-language jihadi forums, Islamic Awakening, is currently down, and suffering “technical issues.” On top Arabic-language forum Tahadi, “there’s hardly anything there at all,” says Adam Raisman, an analyst with the SITE Intelligence Group. “Either the admins are deleting posts until there is official confirmation from al-Qaeda or the forum’s downtime took a toll on its popularity. There’s a post about bin Laden’s death causing a drop in oil prices.”