Relief, outrage and fury follow the death of Osama Bin Laden in the garrison city of Abbottabad in Pakistan.
The British Prime Minister David Cameron said Pakistan must answer ‘searching questions about how the world’s most wanted man lived for six years within 800 yards of its elite officer training academy.
The Prime Minister, who last year infuriated the Pakistani government by accusing it of ‘looking both ways’ on terror, said: ‘The fact that Bin Laden was living in a large house in a populated area suggests that he must have had an extensive support network in Pakistan.
‘Of course there are frustrations and questions that will be asked about who knew what and how could this man live in such a large house in such a comfortable-looking community so close to military installations.
‘What we do know is we should do everything we can to support the democrats in Pakistan who want the entire country to face the same way…and combat terrorism in every way.’
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defended his country’s failure to discover Bin Laden’s luxury hideout near Islamabad, saying that fighting terrorism is the whole world’s responsibility.
‘There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone,’ he told reporters in Paris on Wednesday.
CIA director Leon Panetta said that Pakistan was kept in the dark about the helicopter attack on Bin Laden’s compound because ‘any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission: they might alert the targets.’
But Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Salman Bashir, insisted that Pakistan has played ‘a pivotal role’ in the hunt for Bin Laden. He said the Pakistani authorities alerted the CIA about the house in Abbottabad in 2009, but it took the Americans two years to prove that Bin Laden was inside.
He said, ‘Of course they have much more sophisticated equipment to evaluate and assess. I know for sure that we have extended every co-operation to the United States.’
Mr Bashir said of the raid, ‘If something had gone wrong it would have led to a terrible tragedy. This matter of sovereignty and violation of sovereignty raises certain legal and moral issues that fall properly in the domain of the United Nations.’
However, Asad Durrani, former director general of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, said that ISI knew the whereabouts of Bin Laden and it was ‘not conceivable’ that they had been unaware of the American operation.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague described Bin Laden’s death as ‘a devastating blow’ to Al Qaeda, which could be finished off by the Arab Spring uprisings. But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the battle to stop Al Qaeda and its affiliates does not end with one death:
‘We have to renew our resolve, not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan but around the world. The US will track down and where necessary kill or capture those who are directing actions against our troops. Criminals who indiscriminately murder innocent people will be brought to justice. Our resolve is even stronger following Bin Laden’s death because we know it will have an impact on those who are on the battlefield in Pakistan.’
But there are questions about the ever-changing American account of Operation Geronimo, the raid on Bin Laden’s lair by the elite US Seals.
President Barak Obama’s counter-terrorism chief, John Brennan, originally claimed that Bin Laden was armed and cowered behind one of his wives, using her as a human shield. Both these statements have now been denied, along with the account that the President watched the raid live. And newspapers including the Washington Post are carrying a report that only one of the five people killed in the raid, Bin Laden’s courier, was armed.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, expressed ‘unease’ at the raid. He said, ‘The killing of an unarmed man left an uncomfortable feeling because it didn’t look as though justice had been seen to be done.’
Pakistani papers are condemning the government for failing to detect Osama Bin Laden, calling it ‘a great embarrassment.’ They say it is bound to make the US ask Pakistan ‘very difficult questions,’ and urge the authorities to take a stronger stand against terrorism and reveal whether or not Pakistani forces were involved in the US action.
A few papers express disbelief about Bin Laden’s death and the nature of the operation, dubbing it an attempt to boost the morale of US troops in Afghanistan and President Obama’s re-election campaign.
Some extremist Muslim groups are threatening reprisals but many commentators see this as a turning point, an opportunity for change. Syrian broadcaster and academic Dr Halla Diyab said, ‘Let this death be seen as the final sacrifice of a ‘rite of Spring’ of the Arab revolutions and a turning away from a pagan darkness, from which we can start to face the challenges of building a brighter future for our next generation of children, who are now dying in the streets and crying out for change.’
Manzoor Moghal, Chairman of the Muslim Forum, says, ‘This is a significant event in the history of the world but if people think this is the end of the war on terror then that is a mistaken view. People have to be vigilant but now may be the time to open dialogue.’ He said that as the story unfolds there will be more and more conspiracy theories.
People gathered outside the guarded compound in Abbottabad said they were embarrassed that Bin Laden had been hiding there so long ‘in plain sight’, but expressed outrage at the American military action within their borders. Many insisted they want to see photographs of the body, however gruesome.
On the internet conspiracy theories are rife with many denying that Bin Laden is dead, despite American assurances that they have DNA evidence of his identity. One claims that he died long ago, possibly of kidney failure, in the Tora Bora mountains, that America kept his death secret to justify its War on Terror and are now announcing it with a dramatic cover story.
David Cameron said: ‘There are some conspiracy theorists who will never be satisfied. There are some people who believe that Elvis will be found riding Shergar’ – the racehorse kidnapped in 1983 which has never been seen again.