World leaders hail bin Laden killing

Britain, France and Interpol also sound warning that al-Qaida could attempt to stage attacks to revenge death of terror group’s leader

By Danna Harman
Haaretz

World leaders on Monday hailed the death of al-Qaida chief by American forces in Pakistan as a decisive blow in the fight against terrorism, but some sounded a note of caution that reprisals by the Islamist group could follow.

Russia praised the killing as a “serious success” and vowed there would be no escape for global terrorists.

“Revenge is inescapable for all terrorists,” the Kremlin press service said in the first official comment on the death of bin Laden, architect of the airliner attacks on New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Only a joint struggle against global terrorism can bring a result,” it added in a statement. “Russia is ready to increase its cooperation.”

Moscow is fighting an insurgency in the North Caucasus, and says that rebels with links to al-Qaida have been involved in attacks both there and in the Russian heartland.

“Russia was one of the first countries to encounter the dangers posed by global terrorism, and unfortunately knows from direct experience what al Qaeda stands for,” the Kremlin said.

Pakistan, meanwhile, called bin Laden’s death a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world.

“This operation was conducted by the U.S. Forces in accordance with declared U.S. policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the U.S. Forces, wherever found in the world,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this. Ties between the United States and Pakistan have hit a low point in recent months over the future of Afghanistan, and any hint of possible Pakistani collusion with bin Laden could hit them hard even amid the jubilation of getting American’s No. 1 enemy.

One Pakistani official said the choppers took off from a Pakistani air base, suggesting some cooperation in the raid. But President Barack Obama did not thank Pakistan in his statement on bin Laden’s death.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also welcomed the news of the terrorist leader’s demise Monday, while warning that the country would have to remain vigilant for revenge attacks.

British embassies have been asked to review their security to guard against reprisals, but the formal level of security alert in Britain was left unchanged.

Cameron said in a televised statement from his official country residence Chequers that bin Laden’s death would be “welcomed right across our country.”

“Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead. But it is, I believe, a massive step forward,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he expected heightened vigilance at posts abroad for “some time to come.”

“There may be parts of al-Qaida that will try to show that they are still in business in the coming weeks as indeed some of them are,” Hague told BBC Radio 4, during a trip to Cairo.

“I have already this morning asked our embassies to review their security.”

Britain remains at its second-highest threat level of severe, meaning a militant attack is considered highly likely.

Cameron said bin Laden had been responsible for ordering the death of many British citizens both at home and in other parts of the world.

In July 2005, four young British Islamists inspired by al-Qaida killed 52 commuters in suicide bomb attacks on the capital’s transport network, and security services have since foiled a number of plots.

“Above all today we should think of the victims of the poisonous extremism that this man has been responsible for,” Cameron said.

“Well, you end up in the business of world politics, terrorism, diplomacy, not being surprised by anything in the end,” Hague said, when asked about bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Bin Laden was “the world’s most prominent terrorist leader” and his death in the long-term was a “very positive development”, the foreign secretary said.

But Britain’s work in Afghanistan would continue to be “phenomenally difficult and must go on”, he added. “So it would be wrong to draw the conclusion that suddenly we have solved a mass of the world’s problems.”

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was felt relief at the news of bin Laden’s death, hailing what she called a decisive strike by the U.S. against al-Qaida.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said bin Laden’s death was “good news for all men in the world who think freely and are peaceful”

Westerwelle’s Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, called it “a victory of good over evil, of justice over cruelty.”

“The scourge of terrorism has suffered a historic defeat but it’s not the end of al-Qaida,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned in a statement. “The combat against the criminals who claim to form part of it should continue without respite and unite all the states who are victims of these crimes,” he said.

“We will be more vigilant than ever. The terrorist threat is high,” added French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. “The fight is certainly not over against the worst kind of cowardice, attacks on the innocent.”

France-based international police agency Interpol also warned Monday that extra vigilance will be needed to combat a heightened terrorism risk after following the killing.

“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,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said.

“We therefore need to remain united and focused in our ongoing cooperation and fight, not only against this global threat but also against terrorism by any group anywhere.”

The Vatican said Monday that bin Laden will have to answer to God for having killed many people and exploiting religion to spread hate.

Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that while Christians “do not rejoice” over a death, it serves to remind them of “each person’s responsibility before God and men”.

“Osama bin Laden, as everyone knows, had the grave responsibility of having spread division and hate among people, causing the deaths of an innumerable number of people and exploiting religion for these purposes,” he said.

The Vatican has often condemned the concept of violence in God’s name.

Lombardi also said the Vatican hoped that the death of bin Laden “would not be an occasion for more hate, but for peace.”

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