Osama bin Laden – Dead

Here’s the full White House announcement:

Does this mean I can bring full sized shampoo on airplanes again?

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Bomb Blast in Trois-Rivières

Yesterday at 3am, a bomb went off at the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in Centre Ville, Trois-Rivières. Nobody was hurt. Catch the CBC’s coverage here.

I am in Trois-Rivières this month studying French.

CSI: Trois-Rivières


How Would You Attack?

Freakonomics Blog

Over on the Freakonomics blog, Steven D. Levitt asks the thought provoking question, what would you do to maximize terror if you were a terrorist with limited resources. Readers’ responses to the post were a mixed bag of terror suggestions and hate mail. In a follow-up post, Levitt says that, “The people e-mailing me can’t decide whether I am a moron, a traitor, or both.”

Personally I think it’s an interesting topic, and not one that will give “the terrorists” any ideas they never had before. Hopefully it will provide those in charge of terrorist prevention and response to be better prepared in the event of domestic terror attacks.

In Canada, I think the biggest vulnerability to terrorism would be if they took out a couple of train bridges and brought Canadian commerce to a stand-still.

Because of the layout of the country (something like 80% of our population lives within a couple hours of the border) the transportation networks run basically east to west. I”ve been told there are only two main lines that run parallel across the country. A huge percentage of our goods arrive via sea in Vancouver and are shipped across the country by train. Disabling the tracks in the middle of the country would cripple this process, and doing so probably isn”t much more complicated than a couple of properly placed explosives.

Removing just two very vulnerable bridges, one in Medicine Hat and another in Edmonton, would be enough that virtually no goods could travel across Canada. I have no idea how long it would take to rebuild a train bridge, but it would definitely be the worst terror attack in our country’s history.

So what could be done to prevent such an attack? Building bomb proof bridges is not exactly an option. Putting up security guards around the bridges probably would work, but who wants to pay for that — not to mention the fact that because on any given day the chances of a terrorist strike against the bridges is so slim, it might be ineffective anyway unless the guards are always particularly vigilant.

I guess the best I can do for peace of mind is try not to think about it.

Update: Levitt’s third post on terrorism.


Is Osama Dead?

I’d heard the rumour floating around, but I didn’t believe it—this Reuters article (archived link), France to probe bin Laden death report leak, makes me wonder.

From the article:

France’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday a secret service report saying al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had died could not be confirmed but said it would launch an inquiry into the leak of secret documents.

The Defence Ministry issued the statement after a French regional newspaper, L’Est Republicain, published a report quoting a French secret service report as saying Saudi Arabia is convinced al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan last month.

And this:

U.S. cannot confirm bin Laden death report

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government is unable to confirm a French newspaper report that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to have died last month in Pakistan, the U.S. State Department said on Saturday.

“We don’t have any confirmation of those reports,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

“We have no confirmation of that report,” echoed White House spokesman Blair Jones.

A U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, came closer to an outright denial, saying Washington had no evidence to suggest the French report was true.

“We don’t have anything to support it,” the official said.

“We’ve heard these things before and have no reason to think this is any different. There’s just nothing we can point to, to say this report has any more credence than other reports we’ve seen in the past.”

The French regional daily L’Est Republicain reported that, according to a French secret service report, Saudi Arabia is convinced bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan in late August. The French government has said it could not confirm the report and would investigate the intelligence leak.

Media reports suggesting bin Laden was dead, seriously wounded or in ill health have surfaced periodically over the years, especially during lengthy periods of time without taped messages from the al Qaeda leader.

U.S. officials have suggested that his death would be accompanied by a surge of e-mail and telephone chatter among bereaved al Qaeda members, if not an actual announcement from the militant network.

But officials said they were not aware of any such chatter in recent weeks.

Still, a U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke off the record, declined to completely rule out bin Laden’s death.

“It’s quite possible (that) there was some talk of this, but in terms of being able to confirm this, that I can’t do,” said the official, who declined to be identified.

A factor fuelling persistent speculation about bin Laden’s health is that he has not been seen on a new videotape since late 2004, while his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, has made a number of videotaped appearances.

But bin Laden, 49, a Saudi-born fugitive with a $25 million (13.2 million pound) price on his head, has released several audiotapes this year, which U.S. intelligence has authenticated.

His latest audiotape surfaced in July. In it, he warned Iraq’s Shi’ite majority of retaliation for attacks on Sunni Arabs and said al Qaeda would fight the United States anywhere in the world.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming in New York and Caren Bohan in Washington)