Tue, May 03, 2011 - Page 5 News List

DEATH OF BIN LADEN: Death an ‘important day’: Karzai

NO. 1 MARTYR:While Kabul officials celebrated, Afghans in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar said al-Qaeda was more than bin Laden and his death would strengthen it

AP and Reuters, KABUL and KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s president lauded Osama bin Laden’s death as a serious blow to terrorism yesterday and said the strike in Pakistan proves the real fight against terrorists is outside his country’s borders.

“This is a very important day. Maybe you have already heard on the television or on the radio that American forces have killed Osama bin Laden, delivering him his due punishment,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai told an assembly of district government officials in Kabul, as the hall erupted in applause.

Karzai also used the chance to chastise international forces again for concentrating so much of their military effort in Afghanistan. Karzai has repeatedly said that more of the focus should be across the border in Pakistan where al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders reportedly live.

“For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses,” Karzai said. “It is in safe havens and today that was shown to be true.”

He offered his appreciation to international and Afghan forces who have lost their lives in the nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan and expressed hope that bin Laden’s death could mean the end of terrorism, but he said now is the time to stop assaults that endanger or harass Afghan civilians.

However, Karzai said Afghanistan stands ready to do its part to help fight terrorists and extremists.

“We are with you and we are your allies,” he said, noting that many Afghans had died because of bin Laden’s terror network.

Meanwhile, in the south, Afghans in the Taliban heartland described bin Laden as al-Qaeda’s “No. 1 martyr.”

“Now he is the No. 1 martyr for al-Qaeda because he is stronger dead than alive,” one man, who asked not to be identified, said in Kandahar. “He always predicted that he would be killed by Americans. Now he will become a fire that Muslims will follow for generations.”

Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban and is believed to be where al-Qaeda hatched the plan to attack the US almost 10 years ago.

The Taliban were toppled by US-backed Afghan forces in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but the war has dragged on since, hitting its most violent levels last year.

“Bin Laden’s death doesn’t matter because al-Qaeda is more than him and it’s a big idea now,” another Kandahar man said.

While al-Qaeda’s influence in Afghanistan has waned, the -Taliban-led insurgency has grown. Violence in Afghanistan hit its worst levels last year since the Taliban were ousted, despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops.

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