From SDN staff
and AP wire reports
News of Osama bin Laden’s death stirred strong emotions Monday, from a profound sense of relief across much of the globe to outrage among sympathizers who vowed to avenge the al-Qaida leader.
But few local residents reacted to the news of the terrorist leader’s death more earnestly than did Robert McDavid of Starkville whose son, Spc. Taylor McDavid, a 29-year-old tank operator with the Army’s 164th Armored Division, 3rd Infantry, was killed in 2008 in Baghdad while serving in the war in Iraq.
“If it had not been for Osama bin Laden, Taylor would not have been killed,” said McDavid. “I look at it as justice has been served.”
Taylor McDavid had been in Iraq about 10 months when he was killed. He and four other soldiers were on foot patrol in central Baghdad when a suicide bomber detonated explosives about 30 feet away from them.
Four soldiers died at the scene of the suicide bomber attack, and a fifth died later from wounds. Whether McDavid died at the scene was not known.
Three other American soldiers, two Iraqi civilians and an Iraqi interpreter were wounded in the suicide attack.
Taylor McDavid was proud of being in the military and took his job as a soldier seriously, his father said.
Robert McDavid said he believed the pursuit and execution of the terrorist leader was necessary.
“It was a way to let loose of this emotion that has been pent up for so long, for nine years” said McDavid. “We needed something to say we have captured, we have killed. Osama bin Laden is no longer a menace to society.”
Taylor McDavid’s wife, Jean Alice, agreed:
“I was glad he (bin Laden) was dead,” she said. “ He’s the worst since Hitler and Stalin.”
Despite her son’s death, Jean Alice McDavid said she and her husband supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: “We’ve been asked a lot if we support the war. We did, because if the U.S. hadn’t taken the fight to them, they would be here now.”
The McDavids say they have moved on with their lives as best they can, but that the loss of their son changed their lives.
“You never get over losing a child,” said Jean Alice McDavid. “You just find a new normal, but you never get over it.”
The reaction of the McDavids was echoed in many circles around the world.
Most world leaders welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement of the helicopter raid on a compound in Pakistan, congratulating the U.S. for killing bin Laden or expressing satisfaction that the search for the world’s most wanted terrorist was over.
“This is the fate that evil killers deserve,” said outgoing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, deploring the harm that bin Laden did to “the image of Islam and Arab causes.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy hailed “the tenacity of the United States” in its hunt for the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks while Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi called his death a “great result in the fight against evil.”
Spontaneous, celebratory rallies broke out in New York City at ground zero, where the World Trade Center towers fell nearly 10 years ago, and outside the White House where Obama announced bin Laden’s slaying.
In Afghanistan, where bin Laden was given refuge by the country’s previous Taliban rulers, local officials erupted in applause when President Hamid Karzai told them the news.
“(His hands) were dipped in the blood of thousands and thousands of children, youths and elders of Afghanistan,” Karzai told reporters, and repeated his claim that the fight against terrorism should not be fought in Afghan villages, but across the border in hideouts in Pakistan where bin Laden was killed.
But others in the war-torn nation disagreed about bin Laden’s legacy.
“He was like a hero in the Muslim world,” said Sayed Jalal, a rickshaw driver in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad. “His struggle was always against non-Muslims and infidels, and against superpowers.”
At the site of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, a man who lost his eyesight in the attack prayed in front of a wall commemorating those killed.
“This is a day of great honor to the survivors and victims of terrorism in the world,” Douglas Sidialo told AP Television News. “A day to remember those whose lives were changed forever. A day of great relief to us victims and survivors, to see that bin Laden has been killed.”
But Brian Deegan, a lawyer from the southern Australian city of Adelaide, felt a “cold shiver” rather than relief when learning about bin Laden’s death on a car radio.
He lost his 21-year-old son Josh in al-Qaida-linked bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002.
“I don’t gain any satisfaction in his death — nothing will bring Josh back to me,” Deegan said.
Outside the iconic Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, India — one of the sites of the 2008 terror siege that killed 166 — some people didn’t believe bin Laden was dead. Others said killing him had made the world a little safer.
“It’s a good feeling there is one terrorist less,” said Sufyan Khan, a 20-year-old Muslim student.
Those who followed or sympathized with bin Laden expressed shock and dismay, or vowed revenge.
“My heart is broken,” Mohebullah, a Taliban fighter-turned-farmer in eastern Afghanistan, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “In the past, we heard a lot of rumors about his death, but if he did die, it is a disaster and a black day.”
Salah Anani, a Palestinian-Jordan militant leader accused of links to al-Qaida, said “There will be soon be another leader.”
A top al-Qaida ideologue going by the online name “Assad al-Jihad2” posted a long eulogy for bin Laden on extremist websites and promised to “avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam.”
Bin Laden’s former sister-in-law, Swiss-born Carmen Binladin, told AP that he would have wanted to die “rather than face justice in an American court.”
She said his family in Saudi Arabia will have received the news of his death with “a great sense of sadness.”
U.S. embassies and Americans across the globe were on alert for possible reprisals. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said a “backlash” from al-Qaida sympathizers could not be ruled out. British embassies reviewed their security, and the government advised citizens to stay vigilant and avoid demonstrations or large crowds.
“The world’s most wanted international terrorist is no more, but the death of bin Laden does not represent the demise of al-Qaida affiliates and those inspired by al-Qaida, who have and will continue to engage in terrorist attacks,” said Ronald Noble, the head of the international police agency Interpol.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called bin Laden’s death “a resounding victory for justice, for freedom and for the shared values of all democratic countries that fight shoulder to shoulder against terror.”
The leader of the Palestinian militant Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the killing, saying the operation marked “the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs.”
Venezuela, which often criticizes U.S. policy, also offered a voice of dissent. Vice president Elias Jaua told state-run television it was “questionable from a human point of view to celebrate killing as an instrument for resolving problems.”
Peruvian President Alan Garcia gave part of the credit to former U.S. President George W. Bush, saying it was his decision “to punish bin Laden and patiently continue this work that has borne fruit.”
A leading Colombian human rights activist, Rep. Ivan Cepeda, lamented that the “war on terror” that led to bin Laden’s demise “was carried out without respecting international human rights.”
“President Obama made a campaign promise that he was going to put an end to that policy but he didn’t keep his promise and he hasn’t closed Guantanamo,” Cepeda told AP.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki called the strike against bin Laden “an act of justice to those Kenyans who lost their lives and the many more who suffered injuries” in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
The attacks blamed on al-Qaida killed 225 people and injured thousands.
In Iraq, the former epicenter for al-Qaida’s war against the U.S., both Shiite and Sunni civilians celebrated bin Laden’s death.
“The crimes committed by al-Qaida against the Iraqi people as well as other people all over the world, shows that this terrorist group poses a clear danger to the world’s security,” Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.
Al-Qaida linked groups like the Islamic State of Iraq were responsible for some of the most heinous crimes committed in the country.
As recently as last fall, the Islamic State of Iraq, using at least some fighters from abroad, raided a Baghdad church, killing 68 people.
“We are very happy to hear about the killing of the boss of terrorism in the world,” said Mardin Yalda, 45, who survived the horrific siege. “During his life, bin Laden was the source of suffering and agony for many innocent people, whether Christians or Muslims.”
Baghdad’s chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, told state TV that extra security measures were put in place in the city.
“We expect that some terrorist cells which are linked to al-Qaida in Iraq will launch terrorist acts in reaction to the killing of bin Laden,” he said.
Several Muslims said bin Laden’s death will help restore the image of Islam as a religion of peace, not violence and radicalism.
“Bin Laden’s acts robbed us of freedom to talk and move around,” said Mohammad al-Mansouri, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist in the United Arab Emirates. “He turned us into targets at home and suspects in every foreign country we traveled to.”
Others said the al-Qaida leader should have been brought to justice instead of killed.
“Osama bin Laden has been responsible for preaching hatred and using terrorism to kill innocent people around the world and it would have been more suitable for him to be captured alive and put on trial in an international court,” said Mohammed Shafiq, head of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim organization in Britain.
NATO called bin Laden’s death a “significant success” and said the alliance, with 150,000 troops in Afghanistan, would make sure the country “never again becomes a safe haven for extremism.”
But Russia’s ambassador to NATO downplayed bin Laden’s significance, saying the al-Qaida leader “was only a symbol” who had long since retired and been replaced by younger commanders.
Security analysts questioned whether the fact that bin Laden was found in a compound about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Pakistani capital could complicate relations between the U.S. and Pakistan.
“He’s the world’s most wanted man but he didn’t seem to be Pakistan’s most wanted man,” said Gareth Price, a researcher at Chatham House in London. “Why had Pakistan not spotted he is living in a nice tourist resort just outside Islamabad?”
Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, insisted that his nation was not aware of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
“Had we known it we would have done it ourselves,” Hasan told the BBC. “The Americans knew it and they carried out the operation themselves and they killed Osama bin Laden and then later our president of Pakistan was informed that the operation was successful, and that’s it.”