"We firmly recognize that the umma [nation] of Muhammad is a nation whose destiny is independent of its leaders, no matter how great," said American-born al-Shabaab commander Omar Hammami about the death of Osama bin Laden. For terrorists like Hammami, ending the life of bin Laden hasn't ended the jihad against America.
His statements match the mantra echoing across jihadi forums, as branches of al-Qaida and its allies pledge new terror attacks. Although bin Laden may be dead, the jihad lives on.
Putting aside the rhetoric, al-Qaida is not an anarchist group, despite the loose connection between its regional branches. As long as al-Qaida lacks a clear central leader, it risks being lost in unending attacks without reason. That's contrary to the group's desire to establish a new Caliphate or at least oust the West from Muslim lands.
Rule by al-Qaida's Shura Council, the consultative body of the Pakistani/Afghani branch, remains a strong possibility in the short term. But in the long term, jihadi groups will look to a single leader or emir, to set policy and direct the organization. If that doesn't happen, the scattered al-Qaida branches that we know today will have little to unify them.
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