Unease is growing in Europe over Osama bin Laden’s death, fueled by conflicting versions from US officials about the way the al-Qaeda leader was killed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for instance, has come under fire, including from within her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, for saying she was “pleased that it was possible to kill bin Laden.”
“From a Christian point of view it is definitely inappropriate to express pleasure about the deliberate killing of someone and their death,” said Ingrid Fischbach, deputy CDU parliamentary head and a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics.
Siegfried Kauder, the CDU’s legal affairs spokesman, said he “would not have formulated” his reaction to bin Laden’s demise in the way Merkel had, criticizing a “vengeful way of thinking” that he called “medieval.”
According to a poll by public broadcaster ARD published on Friday, 64 percent of Germans think that bin Laden’s death was not a “reason for joy.” Just 28 percent thought it was.
Bin Laden was killed in the early hours of Monday by US Navy SEAL special forces in a helicopter-borne assault on his compound in Abbottabad, a leafy garrison town two hours’ drive north from Islamabad.
The announcement by US President Barack Obama of the death of the world’s most wanted man prompted emotional celebrations in the US, with chanting crowds gathering outside the White House and at Ground Zero in New York.
At first, the White House said bin Laden was armed, but later spokesman Jay Carney revised the account, raising doubts about the US assurances that they were ready to take bin Laden alive.
On Monday, Deputy National Security Adviser and counterterrorism czar to Obama John Brennan said bin Laden’s wife had died after being used as a human shield in the attack, implying a cowardly act of self-defense by the al-Qaeda leader.
Officials soon rowed back from that story too and Carney provided a new version of events on Tuesday, indicating that bin Laden’s wife had voluntarily rushed a Navy SEAL confronting her husband and was injured but still alive.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Thursday called for “a full disclosure of the accurate facts.”
“I think it’s not just my office, but anybody is entitled to know exactly what happened,” Pillay said in Oslo. “The United Nations condemns terrorism, but it also has basic rules of how counterterrorism activity has to be carried out. It has to be in compliance with international law.”
In France, center-right opposition figure Francois Bayrou, who ran for president in 2007, said on Monday that people “should not celebrate anyone’s death, no matter how horrible they are.”
In Britain, the leader of the world’s Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, on Thursday expressed his unease.
“I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done,” Williams said.
“In those circumstances I think it’s also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help,” he added.
Left-wing Dutch newspaper Volkskrant said in an editorial that “the signs are growing” that bin Laden was “executed in cold blood.”
In Turkey, columnist Guneri Civaoglu wrote in Friday’s mainstream daily Milliyet that bin Laden “should have been tried and punished to show the modern world’s understanding of justice to those who share his mindset.”