Al-Qaeda on the back foot

02 May 2011

US special forces killed Osama bin Laden in an assault on his hideout in Pakistan


On 1 May, US President Barack Obama announced that Navy Seals had located and killed Osama bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda at his compound in Pakistan. Bin Laden was killed during a 40-minute operation. His body was later buried at sea.

Despite being top of the US’ most wanted list with a $25m bounty on his head, Bin Laden evaded the forces of the US and its allies for almost a decade.

Although his death will be seen as a major blow to Al-Qaeda, it also increases fears of reprisal attacks.

Gaza/West Bank

On 4 May, the leaders of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement at a ceremony in Cairo. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and the head of Fatah signed the deal with Khaled Meshaal, head of the Islamist movement Hamas.

The reconciliation deal was brokered by Egypt’s transitional government and was witnessed by representatives from the UN, the EU and the Cairo-based Arab League. The agreement also provides for the creation of a joint caretaker government before elections are held next year. The plan has been criticised in Israel, which says it will not deal with a Palestinian government that includes members of Hamas.

On 1 May, Fatah and Hamas signed a draft agreement after four years of conflict. Hamas will maintain control of Gaza, but as a condition it has insisted on the resignation of Salam Fayed, the Palestinian prime minister, who is seen as anti-Hamas.


On 1 May, a Nato airstrike on Tripoli killed Saif al-Arab Qaddafi, the youngest son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

The 29-year-old was reportedly killed along with three of Qaddafi’s grandsons in a one-storey house in a residential neighbourhood of the capital. Qaddafi was in the building at the time, but was unharmed in the attack.

Nato said it had hit a military target, but denied targeting individuals.

Nato forces have been carrying out airstrikes in Libya for the past month under UN resolution 1973, which was passed in March to protect Libyan civilians.


The GCC secretary general Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani was due to arrive in Yemen on 2 May to try for a second time to convince the country’s president to step down. However, the plan was dropped.

Political unrest in Yemen has so far claimed the lives of 150 people in the past three months. Al-Zayyani met with foreign ministers from the GCC on 1 May after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign their agreement to end the unrest.

The GCC plan proposes the formation of a national unity government in Sanaa, with Saleh transferring power to his vice-president. Saleh would then submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days. Elections would then follow.

Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, is defiant and has said he would only sign the agreement in his capacity as head of the ruling General People’s Congress, not as president.


Having boycotted his official duties for eight days, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to work on 1 May.

At a cabinet meeting, Ahmadinejad dismissed rumours of tensions between himself and Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad had not been seen in public after a rift with Khamenei. The rift occurred after Khameni refused to accept the resignation in April of Intelligence Minister Heider Moslehi, who Ahmadinejad had forced to resign. Moslehi has since been reinstated in his position.


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