The South Asia Channel

Daily brief: Osama bin Laden is dead

Daily brief: Osama bin Laden is dead

"Justice has been done"

Yesterday in Abbottabad, around 40 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and close to Pakistan’s Kakul Military Academy, four U.S. helicopters dropped a Navy SEAL strike team operating under the authority of the C.I.A. that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who reportedly resisted before being shot in the head (NYT, WSJ, Post, AP, LAT, CNN, Guardian, ABC, ET, BBC, NYT, Tel, Pajhwok, FT). Also said to be killed in the 40-minute firefight were two couriers, one of bin Laden’s sons, and a woman who was used as a shield by a man in the compound. Watch U.S. president Barack Obama’s announcement of the news last night, and read the transcript of a White House briefing call afterwards (WH, WH).

The operation that led to bin Laden’s death reportedly centered around one courier who was long trusted by the al-Qaeda leader, thought to be a protege of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and an assistant to captured al-Qaeda number three Abu Farraj al-Libi, and had been in the works for years (NBC, NYT, ABC, ABC, WH). U.S. officials said the compound in Abbottabad was roughly 8 times larger than other homes in the area, was valued at $1 million, has 12- to 18-foot walls topped by barbed wire, and had no telephone or internet service connected to it. DNA tests and facial recognition reportedly confirmed bin Laden’s identity, and he was buried at sea, in keeping with Muslim customs, earlier this morning (LAT, Post, CNN, Guardian). U.S. officials reportedly sought to keep bin Laden’s burial place from becoming a shrine.

Although Obama cited Pakistani assistance in the operation, Pakistan’s government stressed that U.S. forces, not Pakistani soldiers, carried out the raid, apparently reflecting "concern about a possible backlash from Islamist insurgents or Pakistan’s strongly anti-American public" (Post, WSJ, AFP, Reuters, Independent, AFP). Pakistani prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called bin Laden’s death a "great victory," and Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari held "emergency talks" with his security team following Obama’s late-night announcement (Dawn, Reuters). The Times writes, "It [is] too soon to say whether Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad reflected Pakistani complicity or incompetence," and assesses that tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan will be further inflamed (NYT).

The reactions from around the world 

Last night, hundreds of people gathered at the White House in Washington D.C. and Ground Zero and Times Square in New York, chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and singing the national anthem (Post, WSJ, AP). The U.S. warned of possible threats of retaliation (CNN). European, Israeli, Japanese, Filipino, Australian, Kenyan, Ugandan, Russian, and other world leaders hailed the death of bin Laden (AFP, LAT, AFP, ET, WSJ, CNN). India’s home minister, P. Chidambaram, expressed concern that the raid took place "deep inside Pakistan," underlining Indian worries about terrorist groups finding "sanctuary" in Pakistan (AFP). Afghan president Hamid Karzai said bin Laden was "delivered his due punishment," as other Afghan officials expressed relief, though cautioned that bin Laden’s death "should not be seen as mission accomplished" (AP, Post, NYT). U.S. and NATO officials sought to reassure Afghans that bin Laden’s death does not signal the end of the international efforts in Afghanistan (AP).

Officials in the Middle East did not have immediate reactions, and responses were "mixed" on the Arab street (WSJ, CNN, NYT, FT). Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the killing and described bin Laden as a "holy warrior" (CNN).

A member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula reportedly confirmed bin Laden’s death, calling it a "catastrophe," though an online jihadi forum used for official messages has reportedly been deleting posts with the news pending confirmation by "mujahideen sources" (AFP). The Taliban in Afghanistan had no immediate official reaction, though a local commander in Paktia said the killing of bin Laden "will affect their morale and will trigger the violence" and a commander in Baghlan promised revenge (NYT, WSJ, Guardian).

Analysts variously warn that the death of bin Laden does not mean the end of al-Qaeda (NYT, Tel), which remains the "organization likely to remain the most significant security threat to the United States" (Post), while others assess bin Laden’s death is likely to "have a dramatic impact" on U.S.-Pakistani relations and on the war in Afghanistan (WSJ). Speculation about who will succeed bin Laden at the helm of the terrorist group and the future of the group is rife (CNN, AJE, Guardian). The BBC reports mini-profiles of al-Qaeda’s remaining leaders (BBC).

The obituaries

NYT: The most wanted face of terrorism; LAT: Born to privilege, he dies a pariah; WSJ: The death of a terrorist; AP: Bin Laden took a path of fanaticism and terror; Post: Osama bin Laden killed; BBC: Obituary; Reuters: Trailing Osama bin Laden; FT: Obituary: Osama bin Laden; AJE: Obituary: Osama bin Laden; Telegraph: Osama bin Laden; CNN: The face of terrorism.

A wedding gift?

The Guardian points out that Obama authorized the raid at around the same time Britain’s Prince William and Kate Middleton were being married on Friday (Guardian, NYT).

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