An internet news site close to al-Qaeda reported the death of Osama Bin Laden, creating a firestorm in radical Islamic circles.
The report was followed by denials and accusations of a fabrication fostered on the site by foreign agents.
The London-based newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported on Friday that the site Minbar Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jama'ah declared, “We now report that the al-Qaeda organization has announced the death of Osama Bin Laden.”
One of the writers on the site, working under the pseudonym “The Mujahiddin’s Pen,” added: “Osama Bin Laden is dead... Where are the mourners? Where those who sent themselves into the towers and tall buildings?”
Some suspect disinformation tactic
Omar Bakri, a radical Islamic leader in London, told the newspaper that the style of the announcement seemed authentic. However, he thought it was a forgery designed to cause tumult.
Dr. Hani al-Sibai, head of the al-Maqrizi Center for Historical Studies, said, “If Bin laden was really dead, the name of his replacement, Ayman al-Zawahari, would have been announced.”
The Egyptian Islamist Yaser a-Sari told the newspaper that Bin Laden is alive and will soon put out a new videotape. A-Sari said the purpose of the report was designed to prepare followers psychologically for the al-Qaeda leader's death – something that could happen at any moment.