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Library named ‘bin Laden’ as memory fades Name grabs attention of Pakistan local media

ISLAMABAD, April 19, (AP): Most didn’t notice the new library at this Islamic seminary for girls near Pakistan’s capital, until locals saw the paper sign in Urdu posted on its wooden door: “Library of Osama bin Laden, the Martyr.” Cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical preacher who runs the Jamia Hafsa madrassa, wanted to honor the memory of the al-Qaeda leader, killed in a May 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs on his hiding place in Abbottabad, a garrison town about 125 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital, Islamabad. But while the library’s name has garnered attention across Pakistan, a country where public opinion remains strongly anti-American and religious students today still idolize the man behind the Sept. 11 terror attacks, his image increasingly has faded from public view in recent years.

As Pakistan has seen thousands killed in its own war against its local Taleban, a public that once named its own children after the Saudi millionaire has grown increasingly angry with militant violence. Pictures of bin Laden and stores bearing his name once dotted the countryside of Pakistan, where US drone strikes against militants have grown increasingly unpopular over civilian casualties. Islamists held small rallies across Pakistan after the raid to denounce his killing, which embarrassed the country’s military for not detecting it.

The slain al-Qaeda chief is still regarded as a hero by most students at Islamic schools, or madrassas. But this image spread as a symbol in part because at the beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan, many supported the Taleban there. But since there were no images of its leader, Mullah Omar, they adopted the bearded images of bin Laden instead. As Pakistani authorities began arresting Taleban leaders and associates of bin Laden, the public grew increasingly scared about showing his image. Those that remained up slowly faded away in the sun or washed away in torrential, seasonal rains. Aziz’s naming of the library is the first public remembrance of bin Laden in some time, capturing the attention of local media. For Aziz, bin Laden is an icon, the cleric’s spokesman Tehsin Ullah told The Associated Press on Friday. “Aziz thinks that Osama bin Laden is a hero and he is a martyr and that is why he selected Osama bin Laden’s name for the library,” Ullah said.

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