The Al Qaeda organization, through its media channel Al Sahab, released two different audio massages of its leader Usama Bin Laden last week. The contents of these messages already received extensive coverage by the media, but we would like to turn the focus to another aspect. The release of two different tapes at the same time is exceptional and might suggest the return of a messenger that met Bin Laden in his hiding place.
Bin Laden's appearances in the media have been reduced rapidly, especially in recent years when most of them were in audio form. Since mid 2004 Bin Laden appeared in a video tape only once (September 2007 - which raised a lot of doubts about its authenticity) and released a number of audio tapes, as opposed to his numerous pre-2004 appearances which were mostly visual. It is also worth mentioning that during the last few years, Bin Laden "disappeared" for more than a year in two different time frames. .
Furthermore, other Al Qaeda leaders, first and foremost Bin Laden's deputy Ayman Al Zawahiry, were able to release numerous video tapes to the media during this time. While it might be explained by the harsh security measures around Bin Laden or by other obstacles of accessibility, it seems there might be more to it.
We believe that Bin Laden suffers from some kind of a disease that prevents him from running the day to day activities – logistical and operational - of Al Qaeda. In the past, there were several reports suggesting Bin Laden suffered from kidney failure and diabetics that might be deteriorating due to the lack of necessary equipment and medical treatment. In addition, there are a few other inner organizational indicators supporting it.
Hence, it seems that the De Facto leader of the Al Qaeda organization is Bin Laden's deputy Ayman Al Zawahiry, and Bin Laden's role is limited to a symbolic one.
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