June 25, 2018
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Bin Laden’s death draws cheers, relief, dismay

By Deb Riechmann, The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Osama bin Laden’s death drew a mix of celebration and relief from his enemies around the world, shock among his followers and warnings that his demise would not bring an end to terrorist attacks.

Spontaneous, celebratory rallies broke out in New York City at ground zero, where the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and outside the White House where President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s slaying in a helicopter raid in Pakistan.

“This is justice,” Filipino Cookie Micaller said in the Philippine capital, Manila, where she wept and remembered her sister who perished at the World Trade Center. She added that terrorist attacks probably would continue: “I don’t think this is going to stop.”

Outside the iconic Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India — one of the sites of the 2008 terror seige that killed 166 — the news was met by disbelief and relief.

“It’s a good feeling there is one terrorist less,” said Sufyan Khan, a 20-year-old Muslim student. “It gives a sign the world is a little safer than before.”

Hard-line followers and sympathizers of bin Laden expressed shock and dismay or vowed revenge.

“My heart is broken,” Mohebullah, a Taliban fighter-turned-farmer in Ghazni province of eastern Afghanistan, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “In the past, we heard a lot of rumors about his death, but if he did die, it is a disaster and a black day.”

Salah Anani, a Palestinian-Jordan militant leader accused of links to al-Qaida, said “There will be soon be another leader.”

“Obama, the killer, bragged about his so-called victory, but because he has a dead heart, he couldn’t hide the fear of what’s coming,” he said.

A top al-Qaida ideologue going by the online name “Assad al-Jihad2” posted on extremist websites a long eulogy for bin Laden and promised to “avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam.”

U.S. embassies and Americans across the globe were on alert for possible reprisals over the death of the man who masterminded the Sept. 11 attacks. Other Western countries also called for vigilance.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said a “backlash” from al-Qaida sympathizers could not be ruled out, while British diplomatic missions were advised to review their security, remain vigilant and avoid demonstrations and large crowds of people.

“The world’s most wanted international terrorist is no more, but the death of bin Laden does not represent the demise of al-Qaida affiliates and those inspired by al-Qaida, who have and will continue to engage in terrorist attacks around the world,” said Ronald Noble, the head of international police agency Interpol.

World leaders congratulated the U.S. and Obama and called the strike against bin Laden a severe blow to al-Qaida, though many noted it would only weaken, not end, terrorism.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed “the tenacity of the United States” in its 10-year hunt for the al-Qaida leader while Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi called his death a “great result in the fight against evil.”

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “a resounding victory for justice, for freedom and for the shared values of all democratic countries that fight shoulder to shoulder against terror.”

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki noted that the killing of bin Laden came nearly 13 years after the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, attacks blamed on al-Qaida that killed 225 people.

“His killing is an act of justice to those Kenyans who lost their lives and the many more who suffered injuries,” Kibaki said.

Brian Deegan, a lawyer from the southern Australian city of Adelaide, lost his 21-year-old son Josh in al-Qaida-linked bombings on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali in 2002. He said he felt a “cold shiver” when learning about bin Laden’s death on a car radio.

“I don’t gain any satisfaction in his death — nothing will bring Josh back to me,” Deegan said.

Attacks blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants have killed more than 260 people in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Said Agil Siradj, chairman of Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said bin Laden’s death will help restore the image of Islam as one of people, not violence and radicalism.

That sentiment was echoed by moderate Muslims in other parts of the world.

“Bin Laden’s acts robbed us of freedom to talk and move around,” said Mohammad al-Mansouri, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. “He turned us into targets at home and suspects in every foreign country we traveled to.”

But in some places there were mixed feelings.

“He was like a hero in the Muslim world,” said Sayed Jalal, a rickshaw driver in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. “His struggle was always against non-Muslims and infidels, and against superpowers.”

Among those who welcomed that the 10-year hunt for the elusive terrorist was over, some said he should have been captured and brought to justice instead of killed.

In the Afghan capital, local government leaders erupted in applause when President Hamid Karzai told them the news.

Speaking to reporters, Karzai said the world’s top terrorist received “due punishment” — that his hands “were dipped in the blood of thousands and thousands of children, youths and elders of Afghanistan.”

He also used the opportunity to chastise the U.S.-led coalition, repeating his claim that the fight against terrorism should not be fought in Afghan villages, but across the border in hideouts in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed.

Afghanistan’s previous Taliban rulers gave bin Laden refuge after he was forced out of Sudan in 1996. After Sept. 11, as the Taliban fell under pressure of the U.S. bombardment, bin Laden is believed to have fled into the inhospitable mountains in the seam that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called bin Laden’s death a “significant success” and said NATO allies, who have 150,000 troops in the country, “will continue their mission to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”

About an hour’s drive northeast of Kabul, U.S. troops from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, found out the news at Bagram Air Field.

“It’s really great news considering the damage he caused and what followed,” said 1st Sgt. Troy Bayliss, 39.

Russia’s ambassador to NATO, however, downplayed the significance of bin Laden’s death, saying the al-Qaida leader “was only a symbol” who had long since retired and been replaced by younger commanders.

Meanwhile, security analysts questioned whether the fact that bin Laden was found in compound about 60 miles from the Pakistani capital could complicate relations between the U.S. and Pakistan.

“He’s the world’s most wanted man but he didn’t seem to be Pakistan’s most wanted man,” said Gareth Price, a researcher at Chatham House in London. “Why had Pakistan not spotted he is living in a nice tourist resort just outside Islamabad?”

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, insisted that the country’s authorities were not aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.

“Had we known it we would have done it ourselves,” Hasan told the BBC. “The fact is that the Americans knew it and they carried out the operation themselves and they killed Osama bin Laden and then later our president of Pakistan was informed that the operation was successful, and that’s it.”

Associated Press writers Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, Maamoun Youssef in Baghad, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Barbara Surk in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Diaa Hadid in Cairo, Egypt, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Erika Kinetz in Mumbai, India, Kristin Hall at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.


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