PARIS (AFP) – World leaders on Monday welcomed the killing of Osama bin Laden but warned that the long war against terrorism is far from over and that Al-Qaeda could strike back with renewed force.
President Barack Obama said “justice has been done” as he announced the killing by US special forces of the world’s most wanted man, while his predecessor George W. Bush hailed it as a “momentous” achievement.
But in a sign of tensions to come, India lashed out at its arch-foe Pakistan, saying that the fact the manhunt ended at a luxurious villa north of Islamabad was further evidence that militants find “sanctuary” in the country.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari convened emergency talks with his prime minister and security chiefs in Islamabad — only two hours’ drive from bin Laden’s place of death in the town of Abbottabad.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told AFP in an interview that the killing of bin Laden was a “great victory”.
Crowds gathered outside the White House following Obama’s late-night announcement, shouting “USA, USA,” while thousands gathered at Ground Zero in New York, singing “God Bless America”.
Jubilation was tempered by caution in foreign capitals.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated the United States for its “tenacity” in hunting down bin Laden nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which ignited a decade of tumult.
“The scourge of terrorism has suffered a historic defeat but it’s not the end of Al-Qaeda,” he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the slaying of bin Laden was a victory for “the forces of peace,” but said it did not mean the defeat of terrorism. “We must all remain vigilant,” she said.
WikiLeaks revealed last week that the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had told his US interragators that Al-Qaeda has hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe which would unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” if bin Laden was ever captured.
The US State Department issued a global travel alert to all US citizens warning that there could be an outbreak of anti-American violence after bin Laden’s death. Police agency Interpol warned of a “heightened terror risk”.
Britain confirmed it was taking extra precautions at its embassies around the world, and Japan that its military bases were on heightened alert.
France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned against “excessive optimism” in the wake of the killing, saying: “Al-Qaeda still exists. There are deputies. There are structures.”
Pakistan’s main Taliban faction threatened to attack Pakistan and the United States if they could confirm that bin Laden was dead.”
Groups allied with Al-Qaeda are expected to react,” Rahimullah Yusufzai, an expert on tribal affairs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, told AFP.
“They will not let this loss go un-noticed, and their Jihadist allies and Pakistani Taliban will show some reaction by conducting suicide attacks.”
In Pakistan’s neighbour Afghanistan, the fulcrum of Bush’s “war on terror” where bin Laden had found shelter in the late 1990s, President Hamid Karzai said the Al-Qaeda supremo had “paid for his actions”.
But like the Indian government, he pointed the finger of blame at Pakistan, claiming vindication for his oft-stated belief that Afghanistan is not the true hub of the war on terror.
“The war against terrorism is in its sources, in its financial sources, its sanctuaries, in its training bases, not in Afghanistan.”
The Kremlin said bin Laden’s death was a “serious success” for the United States and that Russia was willing to step up its cooperation with Washington in the fight against terror.
The Yemeni government welcomed his death as “the beginning of the end of terror” but a member of the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) admitted the killing was a “catastrophe”.
The head of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniya, condemned the killing.
“We condemn any killing of a holy warrior or of a Muslim and Arab person and we ask God to bestow his mercy upon him,” Haniya told journalists.
Meanwhile, supporters of bin Laden’s violent campaign took to militant Internet sites to vow revenge.
“The lions will remain lions and will continue moving in the footsteps of Osama. O Allah, America will not enjoy safety and security until we live it in Palestine,” one user wrote on the Shumukh al-Islam forum.
In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood warned that another Al-Qaeda could emerge unless the international community changed its attitude towards Islam, the Palestinian issue and corrupt leaders in the Middle East.
Prior to 9/11, Al-Qaeda earned global notoriety with truck bombings outside the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people in August 1998, most of them Africans.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said the killing of bin Laden was an “act of justice” for the victims of the bombings.