Osama shot dead
Death a boost to global anti-terror fight but …
04:46 AM May 03, 2011
WASHINGTON – The sound of a big explosion at the three-storey, fortress-like house in Abbottabad, a popular summer resort in Pakistan, jolted residents from their slumber at 1.15am (local time) on Monday. “We rushed to the rooftop and saw flames near that house,” said a man who lives nearby.
Another resident, Mr Nasir Khan, said commandos encircled the compound as helicopters hovered overhead.
“All of a sudden, there was firing towards the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing,” said Mr Khan.
It was only later that they realised what had happened: Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaeda terror network and mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack on American soil on Sept 11, 2001, had been killed by United States special forces and CIA operatives during a 40-minute gunfight.
US officials said Osama, 54, was shot in the head after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault. One official told CNN that the “targeted operation” was designed to kill Osama, not to take him alive.
A son of Osama and three other people were killed, said Pakistani officials.
In Washington, US President Barack Obama took the unusual step of making a televised address at around 11.30pm on Sunday (local time) to tell Americans what they had long been waiting to hear: Osama is dead.
“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
“After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” Mr Obama said.
According to reports, Osama’s body had been buried at sea. Muslim tradition requires burial within 24 hours of death but, by doing it at sea, American officials presumably were trying to avoid creating a shrine for Osama’s followers.
The President said: “Justice has been done.”
But, even as Americans rejoiced at a triumphant end to a near-decade-long manhunt – in New York, crowds had flocked to Times Square and Ground Zero, where the twin towers fell almost 10 years ago, some shouting “USA, Yes We Can!” – Mr Obama cautioned that the fight against terrorism hasn’t ended.
“‘There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad,” he said.
While Osama’s death represents a defining moment in the American-led fight against terrorism, it remains to be seen whether it galvanises his followers by turning him into a martyr or serves as a turning of the page in the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbour, and gives further impetus to President Obama to bring American troops home.
The killing of Osama deep inside Pakistan in an American operation is also likely to further inflame tensions between the US and Pakistan and raise significant questions about whether elements of the Pakistani spy agency knew his whereabouts.
How much Osama’s death will affect Al Qaeda itself remains unclear. For years, as they failed to find him, American leaders have said that Osama was more symbolically important than operationally significant because he was on the run and hindered in any meaningful leadership role.
And yet, Osama remained the most potent face of terrorism around the world.
Given his status among radicals, the US government braced itself for possible retaliation. The State Department issued a worldwide travel warning, urging Americans in volatile areas “to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations”.
Retaliatory attacks against the US and Western targets could come from Al Qaeda franchises in other countries or radicalised individuals in the US with Al Qaeda sympathies.
Mr Roger Hardy, an Islamic affairs expert, said Osama’s death will be seen as confirming the trend that Al Qaeda has become irrelevant following the uprisings in the Arab world in recent months.
“But the root causes of radical Islam – the range of issues that enabled Al Qaeda to recruit disaffected young Muslims to its cause – remain, for the most part, unaddressed. The death of Osama will strike at the morale of the global jihad, but is unlikely to end it,” Mr Hardy told BBC. Agencies
Source : TODAYonline – MediaCorp Press Ltd’s copyright
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