Don't Get Your Hopes Up
The internet and the MSM are abuzz with rumors that Osama bin Laden died from typhoid last month in Pakistan. This "report" came from a French newspaper, citing a recent report from the DGSE, the French national intelligence agency. Apparently, the DGSE report is based on a single, "reliable" Saudi source, and both French and U.S. officials have stressed that the information has not been confirmed. For what's it worth, the Saudi security services are reportedly convinced that the Al Qaida leader is dead; the French Defense Minister, in a bit of political posturing, has ordered a "full investigation" into the DGSE report.
If this sounds vaguely familar, it should. Rumors about bin Laden's health have circulated for years, without any real semblance of confirmation. For a man who was rumored to suffer from a severe kindey ailment, the terrorist leader seems amazingly healthy. Put another way: with the level of health care generally available along the Pakistan-Afghan border (even for the Al Qaida kingpin), if bin Laden suffered from a serious illness, he would have probably been dead long ago.
And that leads us to reason #1 to discount the French report. Typhoid can be easily prevented with vaccines, which are widely avaiable. It seems a bit incredulous that Al Qaida wouldn't take the precaution to innoculate its top leadership against a disease that is common in its current operational base, given the fact that group's #2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is a physician with a fair degree of skill and experience.
Beyond that, we're also missing the sort of hints that might actually accompany bin Laden's demise: chatter across Al Qaida communications circuits; announcements and messages of condolences of jihadist websites, and signs of a succession struggle within the group. Absent those indicators, it's difficult to lend much credence to a single-source report. There would be a certain irony if bin Laden succumbed to a microbe, instead of a Hellfire missile. But at this point, the odds that actually happened appear rather slim.