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.”
Supporters of the world’s most-wanted terrorist mourned his death.
“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.”
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 countries hit by deadly attacks over the years, including Britain, Spain, Kenya and Indonesia, welcomed the news.
In Tokyo, business owner Takuma Kajiura said he thought the attack would weaken terrorist groups, but was concerned about how Americans erupted in jubilation.
“I’m surprised that there is no separation of politics and religion in the U.S. in the 21st century,” said Kajiura, 39. “The U.S. acts as the international cop and plays the key role among the G-7 and G-8 developed countries. But it is still waging a war of religion.”
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.
Hardline sympathizers of bin Laden expressed shock and dismay.
Salah Anani, a Palestinian-Jordan militant leader accused of links to al-Qaida, said bin Laden’s death marked a new beginning for the Muslim nation.
“There will soon be another leader,” said Anani, who adheres to an extremist doctrine that regards even non-militant Muslims as infidels. “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.”
Sayed Jalal, a rickshaw driver in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, said many people in his city were happy that a major terrorist had been eliminated, but also were upset over the death of a man who fought for the Muslim world.
“He was like a hero in the Muslim world,” Jalal said. “His struggle was always against non-Muslims and infidels, and against superpowers.”
In the Afghan capital, local government leaders erupted in applause when President Hamid Karzai told them the news.
“I hope that the death of Osama bin Laden will mean the end of terrorism,” Karzai said.
Speaking to reporters, Karzai said that the world’s top terrorist “received his 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. His large financial contributions to the Taliban government made him a valuable asset to their regime, and Taliban leaders refused requests to hand over bin Laden after he was linked to the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
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.
In Nairobi, Kenya, 21-year-old journalism student Godfrey Muta said the “world will be safer” now.
“He was the head of al-Qaida. And when you cut off the head, other parts will be weakened,” he said.
In the Philippines, a retired police general who was involved in hunting al-Qaida militants for years, said the killing was the “greatest victory of the worldwide counterterrorism campaign.”
“He’s the idol, the figurehead, the acknowledged global leader of al-Qaida, but his death doesn’t mean the death of terrorism,” said the police general, Rodolfo Mendoza. “There are many groups which have become autonomous.”
Chairul Akbar, secretary general of the anti-terrorism agency in Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim nation and a frequent al-Qaida target — expressed jubilation about the news. Attacks blamed on al-Qaida-linked militants have killed more than 260 people in Indonesia, many of them foreign tourists.
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.
Assadollahi, a resident of Tehran, was ecstatic.
“It really made me happy to hear that he has been sent to hell because all of terrorists used to carry out their activities under his control,” he said. “I am very glad that he is dead.”
In the United Arab Emirates, where two of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist, said bin Laden had made suspects of all Arabs and Muslims.
“Bin Laden’s acts robbed us of freedom to talk and move around,” said Mohammad al-Mansouri. “He turned us into targets at home and suspects in every foreign country we traveled to.”
Ghiyath Sahloul, a Syrian citizen in the capital Damascus, called bin Laden’s death “the beginning of the end of Islamic extremism.” He said he was sorry that he was killed instead of being arrested and brought to trial. He warned of a strong backlash from al-Qaida supporters.
About an hour’s drive northeast of Kabil, 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.
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Hadid Diaa in Cairo, Egypt, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Kristin Hall at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.
Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of U.S. troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says.
The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says.
Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry, as President Barack Obama prepares to boost U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
I'm glad they caught him. It looked like they weren't seriously looking for him until the Obama administration. More »
U.S. intelligence officials believe al-Qaida will have a hard time recovering from the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden.
After all, his heir apparent, Ayman al-Zawahri, is a harsh, divisive figure who lacks the charisma and mystique that bin Laden used to hold together al-Qaida's various factions. Without bin Laden's iconic figure running al-Qaida, intelligence officials believe the group could splinter and weaken.
But if there is one thing al-Qaida has proved it is able to do, it is adapt to adversity. Its foot soldiers learned to stay off their cell phones to avoid U.S. wiretaps. Their technical wizards cooked up cutting edge encryption software that flummoxed American code-breakers. And a would-be bomber managed to defeat billions of dollars in airline security upgrades with explosives tucked in his underwear.