Bin Laden's death summons joy, relief from U.S. allies

McClatchy NewspapersMay 2, 2011 

MEXICO CITY — Congratulations poured in from around the globe. From London and Paris, to Nairobi and New Delhi, nations touched by the scourge of terrorism hailed the news of Osama bin Laden's elimination.

But some nations remained silent Monday, unnerved by the U.S. demonstration of its ability to project power with stealth and deadly force against its foes.

Middle Eastern leaders reacted with caution, fearful of retaliation, and the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza condemned the killing. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative organization with links around the Islamic world, rejected the outcome of the U.S. raid in Pakistan, saying it prefers putting accused radicals on trial.

In Western Europe, leaders voiced relief, satisfaction and even elation that a U.S. commando action on a military garrison town in Pakistan had rid the world of the al Qaida mastermind.

"I'm overjoyed at the news," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told state radio, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called the death of bin Laden "a historic defeat" for terrorism, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised it as "good news."

Nations touched more brutally by Islamic terrorism were particularly effusive. Spain, where 191 people died in the al Qaida bombings of four passenger trains in 2004, called bin Laden's demise "a decisive step in the fight against international terrorism."

Britain, too, suffered al Qaida attacks on underground trains and a bus in 2005 that killed 52 people. Prime Minister David Cameron said bin Laden's death will "bring great relief to people across the world."

"Of course, nothing will bring back those loved ones that families have lost to terror," Cameron added, "but at least they know the man who was responsible for these appalling acts is no more."

Even Russia, which finds little common ground with the U.S. these days, offered enthusiastic congratulations and compared bin Laden's capture to its own hunt for Chechen terrorists.

"Russia was one of the first to come up against the threat of global terrorism, and unfortunately, knows firsthand what al Qaida is," the Kremlin said in an official statement posted on its website.

Joy over bin Laden's killing largely bypassed Somalia, a haven for pirates and Islamic radicals, but surged in Kenya, a nation that saw scores of fatalities when al Qaida bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said the killing of bin Laden is an "act of justice" for the victims of the 1998 embassy bombing.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described the elimination of bin Laden as a "watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism."

Several Middle Eastern nations offered cautious praise — but none with the unabashed happiness of Israel.

"The state of Israel joins together in the joy of the American people after the liquidation of Bin Laden," said a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "This is a resounding victory for justice, for freedom, and for the shared values of all democratic countries fighting shoulder to shoulder with determination against terror."

Bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia as one of some 54 children born to Mohammad bin Laden, and the Saudi government offered a cautious statement that his death is "a step towards supporting international efforts to combat terrorism and to dismantle its cells."

Words of approval also came in from parts of Asia and Latin America.

In Colombia, a staunch U.S. ally, President Juan Manuel Santos called bin Laden's death "an important and powerful blow against global terrorism."

"This shows, once again, that sooner or later, terrorists always fall," Santos said.

Mexico noted that its own citizens were among those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, and said that bin Laden's death "is an event of great transcendence in the efforts to free the world of the curse of terrorism."

"The world is a safer place now," Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Garcia Belaunde said.

Leaders of nations considered renegades by Washington kept mum about the killing, among them Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, the Castro brothers of Cuba, and Kim Jong Il of North Korea.

Venezuela's loquacious President Hugo Chavez, who has repeatedly accused the Pentagon of preparing to invade his country to topple him from power, offered no public remarks, wary perhaps of the implications of the precision commando raid.

In Asia, China gave swift and broad coverage to the killing, portraying it as a demonstration that U.S. capacity to project its power is not diminished as some Chinese commentators have suggested.

India reacted with "grave concern" at new evidence that its longtime rival Pakistan remains a haven for Islamic militants.

"This fact underlines our concern that terrorists belonging to different organizations find sanctuary in Pakistan," Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in a statement.

New Delhi has long tried to convince Washington to take a harder line on Pakistan, and frustration increased after 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people.

(Jim Wyss of the Miami Herald contributed to this story from Bogota, Colombia.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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