Euphoria over the killing of Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was tempered in the West yesterday by fears of retaliation, while world leaders and security experts urged renewed vigilance against attacks.
Interpol predicted a heightened risk and called for extra vigilance in case followers sought revenge for the killing of the man who became the global face of terror, even if he no longer had tactical control of al-Qaeda actions.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed the killing as a coup in the fight against terrorism, but both he and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it did not spell al-Qaeda’s demise.
“The scourge of terrorism has undergone a historic defeat, but this is not the end of al-Qaeda,” Sarkozy said.
British Prime Minster David Cameron also said the West would have to be “particularly vigilant” in the weeks ahead.
Some security experts fear the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks could further incite al-Qaeda supporters.
“Whilst we in the West might have the satisfaction of justice having been dealt to a terrorist, many will still see Osama bin Laden as a martyr. Make no mistake: violent jihadists will react to this,” Julian Lindley-French of London’s Chatham House think tank said.
Roland Jacquard, head of the International Terrorism Observatory in Paris, said the US would be targeted.
“The way in which he was killed, by a military commando, shows this will have important consequences for the future. It will be a call for jihad, he will remain a very real-life martyr for the rest of the organization,” Jacquard said.
Already yesterday, Islamic militants hinted at revenge.
“Oh God, please make this news not true ... God curse you Obama,” one message on an Arabic language forum said. “Oh Americans ... it is still legal for us to cut your necks.”
France has been on red alert, the third-highest level in a four-step scale, since suicide bomb attacks in London in 2005 and has been especially vigilant since bin Laden criticized the country’s attitude toward Muslims in October last year.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the country of bin Laden’s birth, hopes his killing will help the international fight against terrorism and stamp out the “misguided thought” behind it, the Saudi state news agency said yesterday.
“An official source expressed the hope of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that the elimination of the leader of the terrorist al-Qaeda organization would be a step toward supporting international efforts aimed at fighting terrorism,” the news agency said.
It added that Riyadh hoped that bin Laden’s demise would also help break up al-Qaeda cells and eliminate the “misguided thought” that drives militancy.
The Saudi comments broke a near-silence that officials of Gulf Arab states had maintained after news emerged of bin Laden’s death.
Yemen, bin Laden’s ancestral Arabian Peninsula homeland, echoed Saudi sentiments, calling his killing a “monumental milestone in the ongoing global war against terrorism” in a statement issued by its embassy in Washington.
A Yemeni official, speaking on condition of anonymity, previously said Sana’a hoped the killing would “root out terrorism throughout the world.”
Iran said yesterday the death of bin Laden has removed “any excuse” for the US and its allies to deploy forces in the Middle East under the pretext of fighting terrorism.