Yesterday it was announced that the US military and intelligence services had finally located US ‘Public Enemy Number 1’ Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader responsible to the September 11th attacks, among other terrorist atrocities. A Navy Seals team entered his compound. Apparently they offered him the chance to surrender (I’m not sure if I believe that, myself) but he refused and was killed in the ensuing firefight.
He had a compound in Abbottabadd, Pakistan, very close to their elite military academy. This only adds to the embarrassment for the Pakistani authorities, who weren’t told about the raid in advance because of fears it would leak. The West has long-held suspicions that there are senior figures inside the Pakistani security services who are Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathisers who knew more than they ever told the Americans.
The body was buried at sea. It was done within 24 hours as Islamic custom dictates, but apparently burial at sea is unusual in Islamic societies so some people consider it disrespectful. There was little choice though, as any burial place, if known, would rapidly become a shrine and place of pilgrimage.
Bin Laden has been actively hunted for nearly ten years now. Cheering crowds gathered at the White House and Ground Zero chanting “USA, USA” as well as in other places across the US. That seems a trifle gruesome but the exuberance is understandable in the circumstances. We in this country mustn’t forget that 9/11 was also the deadliest terrorist attack on British citizens – more so than 7/7.
This is a battle which has been won, not the war. It is not over. There will always be new leaders to replace those who are killed. Revenge attacks are also highly likely. I suspect any terrorist reprisals will be targeted on America, but here in Britain, we are not any safer than we were before. We mustn’t get complacent.