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A mixed reaction on Osama bin Laden’s death

Late night between May 1 and May 2, 2011, there were reports circulating in Pakistan of a low flying American helicopters having “blown up” in the city of Abbottabad, located in the Hazara region of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This picture says it all

Three loud blasts were heard near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul Road late on Sunday night and a military helicopter also crashed. Sources told Geo News that heavy firing was heard in the area before the chopper crashed.

Window panes of the nearby buildings and houses were smashed due to the intensity of the blasts, the sources said. Eyewitnesses said first sound of heavy firing was heard and then there was a huge blast. Fire erupted at the scene of the occurrence and police and fire brigade teams rushed towards the blast scene. Security forces cordoned off the entire area and military helicopters were also hovering over the area.

The Los Angeles Times reported that after landing by helicopter at the Pakistani compound housing Osama bin Laden on Sunday, the U.S. special operations team tasked with capturing or killing the Al Qaeda leader found itself in an almost continuous gun battle.

For the next 40 minutes, the team cleared the two buildings within the fortified compound in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, trying to reach bin Laden and his family, who lived on the second and third floors of the largest structure, senior Defense Department and intelligence officials said Monday.

“Throughout most of the 40 minutes, they were engaged in a firefight,” said a senior Pentagon official, who characterized the operation as intense but deliberate.

The LA Times went on to say that bin Laden “resisted” and was killed by U.S. gunfire in the larger building toward the end of the operation. He fired on the assault team, a U.S. official said, and may have tried to use his wife as a shield. The woman also was killed.

After the firefight, the special-operations force quickly gathered papers — valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda, officials said — and other materials in the two buildings and clambered back on helicopters, taking bin Laden’s corpse with them.

Before departing, the U.S. team blew up one of the helicopters, a Blackhawk, which had experienced mechanical problems, officials said.

“No detainees were taken, and the women and children who survived the attack were left at the compound, Pentagon officials said,” according to the LA Times.

“This wasn’t an execution,” one U.S. official later said. “The assessment going into it was that it’s highly unlikely that’s he’s going to be taken alive, but if he decided to lay down his arms, he would have been taken captive.”

Bin Laden’s body was taken to the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, in the northern part of the Arabian Sea and buried at sea Monday at around 1 a.m. EDT.

According to the American media, the operation was completed in 40 minutes, and the compound was rented by two Afghan nationals. The Pakistani intelligence played a vital role in the operation, and the compound had been monitored for the past few months.

Surprisingly, when much of the rest of the world was celebrating the news of the killing of Osama bin Laden, the Pakistani Government was quiet for some time, and no military official issued any reaction or statement on the incident even though the operation was carried out on the Pakistani soil.

Pakistani defense analysts expected a huge backlash in the country over the incident.

Moderates soon began celebrating the news including some students at a local university in Islamabad. There were also celebrations from moderates in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Abbottabad, however, is different. The city is deserted, with only the Army officials on the streets.

Some of the local media is showing a biased reaction to the news of the killing and appear to be glorifying Osama Bin Laden.

Marvi Memon, a member of the National Assembly, criticized the Pakistani government, said, “Where is our President? Where is our Prime Minister? Where is our sovereignty? Why was an operation authorized on our soil without taking the parliament into confidence? President Obama is the President of America, not Pakistan. Where is our President? Why didn’t he address the nation? Our men, women and children have been killed in the so-called war against terror.”

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that elimination of Osama bin Laden, a foreigner, who had declared war against Pakistan, has been responsible for killing over 30,000 Pakistanis and martyrdom of over 5,000 security forces personnel is a great victory of alliance against terrorism.

The Prime Minister was talking to his UK counterpart David Cameron, who telephoned him on Monday evening to express solidarity with Pakistan. Gilani while reiterating his government’s resolute commitment to take war against terrorism to its logical conclusion stated that Pakistan will continue to play its constructive role for regional stability.

According to AFP, the Pakistani Prime Minister said in an interview on Monday that the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, not far from the Pakistani capital, was a “great victory”.

“We will not allow our soil to be used against any other country for terrorism and therefore I think it’s a great victory, it’s a success and I congratulate the success of this operation,” he said.

Asked about the extent to which Pakistan cooperated in the operation he said: “I don’t know the details, I don’t know minute details, but in short we have intelligence cooperation.”

He also, in a meeting with the cabinet, military officials and intelligence agencies, termed the killing of Bin laden as a “victory in the war against terror.”

The Prime Minister also stated that the Government will be issuing a “balanced statement to avoid a backlash.”

Extremists are not at all happy with the news. The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban, have said that this is all a “false operation,” and that they still believe that Osama is “alive.”

The Afghan Taliban has also refused to believe the reports.

Retired Brig. and Ex Chief ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence), Hameed Gul, said, “The statements by the Americans don’t seem [to be] a reality. In the visuals of Osama, he seems much younger and they claim that no American was killed in the helicopter crash. I doubt all of this. Obama is a smart person. This is a great start to his election campaign. The time is tough for Pakistan right now.”

Some analysts think that Al-Qaida Network in both Pakistan and Afghanistan will become “weak” because of the killing, but others think that they will respond more aggressively.

There are reports that the Americans and other allies are having a meeting regarding closing down their Embassies in Pakistan for some time to avoid any serious problems.

The Pakistani nation is still awaiting an official statement from the Prime Minister and the President and all of the Political parties are reluctant to comment on the matter.

Many Christian institutions have closed their offices and several schools across Pakistan have been shut down to avoid any reaction.

Meanwhile in the United States, the killing of bin Laden by U.S. military commandos storming a heavily fortified compound in Pakistan was widely welcomed by many Muslims.

“Today we greet the news of the death of Osama bin Laden with immense relief,” said Haris Tarin, the head of the Muslim Public Affairs Council Washington office, who says he was awake all night after the killing, communicating with Muslims, especially the younger generation.

“And I think the resounding message that I have gotten from many young people across the country, from emails, Facebook, telephone calls, Twitter – we see that the American-Muslim community had rejected Osama bin Laden,” said Tarin. “From them this is a chapter that they want closed.”

Although American Muslim organizations worked with law enforcement agencies and other faith groups, it is believed that some of the young still embraced bin Laden’s extremist message.


Rodrick Samson is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan and a frequent contributer to the ASSIST News Service

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