EU hails death of ‘heinous criminal’ Bin Laden

barroso_presi.jpg

EU leaders today (2 May) hailed the demise of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in a firefight with US forces in Pakistan. His death marks the end of a decade-long hunt for the mastermind of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

US President Barack Obama announced the news in a late-night speech and said Bin Laden's body had been recovered following the US-led operation near Islamabad.

"Justice has been done," President Barack Obama declared in a hastily-called, late-night White House speech. A source familiar with the US operation said Bin Laden was shot in the head.

Jubilant, flag-waving celebrations erupted in Washington and New York. It was the biggest national security victory for Obama since he took office in early 2009 and could give him a political boost as he seeks re-election in 2012.

A US official today said that Bin Laden had been buried at sea. He did not say where.

According to Reuters, Obama may now find it easier to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan, begun after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.

But the operation could complicate relations with Pakistan. A US official said Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid only after it had taken place.

In a joint statement, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Bin Laden was "a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people". His death makes the world a safer place and shows that such crimes do not remain unpunished, they added.

The EU leaders also said that the killing of Bin Laden was "a major achievement" in the efforts of the international community to rid the world of terrorism.

"The European Union continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States, our international partners and our friends in the Muslim world in combating the scourge of global extremism and in building a world of peace, security and prosperity for all," Van Rompuy and Barroso concluded.

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said the international community had woken up to "a more secure world".

"Although the fight of the international community against terrorists is not over, an important step has been made in the fight against al-Qaeda, to give security to millions of people: Christians, Muslims, all those who believe in peaceful coexistence," he stated.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would have to remain vigilant following the killing of Bin Laden.

"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," Cameron said.

He recalled that al-Qaeda had been responsible for ordering the deaths of British citizens both at home and in other parts of the world.

Experts cautious

The killing of Bin Laden will deal a big psychological blow to al-Qaeda but may have little practical impact on an increasingly decentralised group that has operated tactically without him for years, experts said.

"As a matter of leadership of terrorist operations, Bin Laden has really not been the main story for some time," said Paul Pillar, a former senior US intelligence official, quoted by Reuters.

"I don't think there's any real military significance [to Bin Laden's death]," said Arturo Munoz, a security analyst at RAND Corporation.

"The significance is political and psychological and psychologically and politically, there's a huge significance."

"Bin Laden's death is a significant victory for the United States. But it is more symbolic than concrete," said Fawaz Gerges, an al-Qaeda expert at the London School of Economics.

Konstantin Kosyachov, chairman of the lower chamber of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, welcomed the news of the death Bin Laden, saying it is a leap forward for the international community's efforts to combat global militancy.

Kosachyov added that Bin Laden's death was not the result of "mob law", which is sometimes the case in international practices.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the killing of Bin Laden as a triumph for Washington and its allies in their "war on terror".

"This is a resounding triumph for justice, freedom and the values shared by all democratic nations fighting shoulder to shoulder in determination against terrorism," Netanyahu said in a statement early on Monday.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority said on Monday the killing of Bin Laden by US forces was "good for the cause of peace".

"Getting rid of Bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods - the violent methods - that were created and encouraged by Bin Laden and others in the world," PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib said.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden will have to answer to God for having killed many people and exploiting religion to spread hate, the Vatican said on Monday.

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".

"The end of the Bin Laden era is good news for all those around the world who are fighting against international terrorism. It is also a symbolic day and encouraging for all the international coalition forces who have been fighting against the al-Qaeda network for years," said French MEP Joseph Daul, chairman of the European Parliament's centre-right European People's Party group.

He added that eliminating the leader of the main terrorist network is not an end in itself, but a necessary step towards the eradication of a network that has committed so many appalling and cowardly crimes.

"The end of the Bin Laden era is, I hope, the beginning of good news for the entire international community," Daul concluded.

German MEP Martin Schulz, leader of the European Parliament's centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) group, warned of the danger of retaliatory attacks following the killing of Bin Laden and called for vigilance.

"Bin Laden, one of the world's most significant terrorist leaders, died in the effort to bring him to justice.  But his death does not end the threat of terrorism. There is now a risk of retaliation by other al-Qaeda groups and we must all be vigilant.

Schulz said Bin Laden was a symbolic figure who knew what his fate would inevitably be, but that al-Qaeda was not a centralised organisation but a network of independent groups, and that the terrorist threat had "certainly not diminished".

"The world will inevitably feel that justice has been served in the killing of Bin Laden. But we must also avoid inappropriate triumphalism over his death," Schulz concluded.

Transatlantic relations came under increasing strain during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration, with the War on Terror dividing Europeans and Americans.

With the election of Barack Obama, the EU got the US president it wanted. However, EU-US relations have not made a substantial progress, as a recent summit has shown.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.