Reaction to the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed by the U.S. forces has been greeted with unashamed joy in the United States and cautious optimism from the rest of the Western world.
The confirmation of bin Laden’s death has seen Americans celebrate, with a crowd soon forming outside the White House in the wake of the news, chanting “USA! USA!” and singing the national anthem. Family members of those killed in the 9/11 attacks have publicly said their lost loved ones could now rest in peace.
Members of congress have showed similar elation. Rep. Tim Walz – the highest ranking enlisted man in Congress – said justice had been served. Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, gleefully reacted to the death on Facebook in advance of Obama’s statement. Steve Hadley, national security adviser to President George W. Bush, said the death of Osama bin Laden “is a great day for America.”
“The killing of Osama bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that New Yorkers and Americans experienced at his hands, but it is a critically important victory for our nation – and a tribute to the millions of men and women in our armed forces and elsewhere who have fought so hard for our nation,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that President Obama called him to inform him of the news of bin Laden’s death. He said the operation was a “momentous achievement” that “marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Bill Clinton also issued a written statement congratulating Obama. “I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous Al-Qaeda attacks,” he said.
“The news that Osama Bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen – for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives, many of them British. It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror.”
“This is a time to remember all those murdered by Osama Bin Laden, and all those who lost loved ones. It is also a time too to thank all those who work round the clock to keep us safe from terrorism. Their work will continue. I congratulate President Obama and those responsible for carrying out this operation.”
“My heartfelt gratitude to President Obama and to all of those who so brilliantly undertook and executed this operation,” said Tony Blair. “We should never forget 9/11 was also the worst ever terrorist attack against UK civilians, and our thoughts are with all those – American, British and from nations across the world – who lost their lives and with their loved ones who remain and who live with their loss.”
He added that “9/11 was an attack not just on the United States, but on all those who shared the best values of civilisation. The operation shows those who commit acts of terror against the innocent will be brought to justice, however long it takes. So this is a huge achievement in the fight against terrorism but we know the fight against the terrorism and the ideology that Bin Laden represents continues and is as urgent as ever.”
EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said in the statement that “His death makes the world a safer place and shows that such crimes do not remain unpunished. Osama bin Laden was a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people.”
“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.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “Last night the forces of peace achieved a victory. But this does not mean that international terrorism has been defeated yet. We must all remain vigilant. The US military has achieved a decisive blow against Al-Qaeda with its commando action against Osama bin Laden and his killing.”
“Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Terror was brought to many countries on his direct orders and in his name, against men, women and children, Christians and Muslims. Osama bin Laden claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, but in reality he made a mockery of the basic values of his and all other religions.”
Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, hailed the killing of bin Laden as a “great outcome in the fight against evil.” “The world has been waiting for this news for 10 years. This is a great outcome in the fight against evil, in the fight against terrorism, a great outcome for the United States and for all democracies,” he said.
But the Vatican warned that no Christian should celebrate the death of the al Qaeda leader. “A Christian should never rejoice” over the death of a human being, said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, although bin Laden would have to answer to God for spreading hatred and ordering the killing of so many people.
“Osama bin Laden, as everyone knows, had the grave responsibility of having spread division and hate among people, causing the deaths of an innumerable number of people and exploiting religion for these purposes,” Father Lombardi said. He said the Vatican hoped that the death of bin Laden “would not be an occasion for more hate, but for peace”.
The US dollar rose against both the Euro and the Yen after the reports of bin Laden’s death, while there were also falls in crude oil prices. The US stock prices also rose in the aftermath of the news, with the standard & Poor’s 500 Index rising by almost 1% in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
There has been no official reaction from Al-Qaeda, although Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman al-Zawahri is the number two man in the organisation and is likely to take over the role.
A more terrifying possibility was raised last month, when Wikileaks documents revealed that a senior al Qaeda commander claimed that the terror group has stashed away a nuclear bomb in Europe that would be detonated if bin Laden was ever caught or assassinated. [via The Telegraph (UK), National Journal and NZ Herald (NZ)]