Illustration by Ken Crane
Illustration by Ken Crane
Western leaders and Arab citizens alike said that Osama bin Laden’s death is an important symbolic victory, but does not signal an end to the threat of terrorism in the West.
Reactions varied, but for many of them, the relief was measured. From Western leaders to Arab citizens, they acknowledged that while Mr. Bin Laden’s death is a symbolic victory, it does not signal an end to the threat of terrorism in the West.
“Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people…. The forces of peace were successful last night. International terror has not been defeated. We’ll all have to remain vigilant,” said a spokesman speaking on behalf of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to Reuters.
In the Arab world, too, there was a widespread feeling that this was a milestone, but not an end, as the Guardian reported from Cairo and other major cities in the region.
Reaction in Cairo was initially muted, with local media outlets and early morning commuters reluctant to talk about the significance of the news before the body of the terrorist leader was displayed.
“I hope it’s true, but even it it is, does it really mean that al-Qaida is finished?” said bank worker Ayman Qhadari. “There will be a million more men like him. There probably already are.” …
“Al-Qaida is not one person anymore,” said Major General Hussein Kamal from the intelligence division of Iraq’s interior ministry. “I don’t expect that the killing of Bin Laden will finish al-Qaida here or in other countries. It will affect their morale, for sure. But it won’t end their organisation.”
Israel, which has described the fight against terrorism as a joint responsibility of the world’s democracies, responded euphorically. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Israel “shares the joy of the American people” and called the operation a “resounding victory for justice, freedom, and the values shared by all democratic countries fighting should to shoulder against terror.”
Meanwhile, the top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip condemned the killing of Bin Laden, according to Reuters. “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood,” said Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in Gaza.
IN PICTURES: Osama bin Laden death: reaction
That statement could complicate the reconciliation deal agreed last week between Hamas and Western-backed Fatah, which made a statement of support for Bin Laden’s death and said the next step is ending the violence he endorsed, reported the Guardian.
“Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods – the violent methods –that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world,” Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.
Al Jazeera commentators agreed that Bin Laden’s death is also a symbolic victory in the Arab world, but argued that it is much less of a game changer than the popular uprisings sweeping the region since January.
” … Bin Laden has already been made irrelevant by the Arab Spring that underlined the meaning of peoples power through peaceful means,” said Marwan Bishara, an Al Jazeera political analyst, in a column.
A Guardian report from the Afghan capital of Kabul said the streets of the city were quiet and the local reaction was muted as President Hamid Karzai announced Bin Laden’s death. Mr. Karzai used the event as an opportunity to criticize the West’s operations in Afghanistan because Bin Laden was not found in the country.
“Year after year, day after day, we have said the fighting against terrorism is not in the villages of Afghanistan, not among the poor people of Afghanistan,” he said. “The fight against terrorism is in safe havens. It proves that Afghanistan was right,” Karzai said.
Indian officials, meanwhile, used the news to bolster their longtime claims that Pakistan harbors militants, according to Dawn. How else could Bin Laden have hidden there so long, so comfortably?
“We take note with grave concern that part of the statement in which President Obama said that the firefight in which Osama bin Laden was killed took place in Abbotttabad ‘deep inside Pakistan’,” Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said.
“This fact underlies our concern that terrorists belonging to different organisations find sanctuary in Pakistan,” he said.
India has long had fraught relations with Pakistan, partially stemming from India’s belief that Pakistan has allowed militant groups to operate within its borders.
A senior security official in the Pakistani city of Peshawar told Reuters that the attack on Bin Laden’s compound was a joint operation, but the fact that Pakistan hadn’t acted sooner could reflect badly on the country’s willingness to hunt down militants.
“Pakistan will have to do a lot of damage control because the Americans have been reporting he is in Pakistan. This is a serious blow to the credibility of Pakistan,” [said security analyst Imtiaz Gul].
But defence analyst and former general Talat Masood said the fact bin Laden was killed in a joint operation would limit the damage to Pakistan’s image.
“There should be a sigh of relief because this will take some pressure off of Pakistan,” said defence analyst and former general Talat Masood. “Pakistan most probably has contributed to this, and Pakistan can take some credit for this – being such an iconic figure, it’s a great achievement.”
The Times of India interpreted the ambiguity of US and Pakistan statements on involvement differently, however, saying that Obama’s statement “left no doubt” that the US alone could take credit for Bin Laden’s death and that Pakistan was not informed of the operation.
In fact, there was not even a word of thanks for Pakistan. Instead, Obama said: ”Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates.”
The finger of suspicion is now pointing squarely at the Pakistani military and intelligence for sheltering and protecting Osama bin Laden before US forces hunted him down and put a bullet in his head in the wee hours of Sunday. The coordinates of the action and sequence of events indicate that the al-Qaida fugitive may have been killed in an ISI safehouse.