May 7, 2011

In Focus: Al-Qaida acknowledges bin Laden's death

The terror organization vows to fight on without its slain leader and appears unaware that his body had been buried at sea.

By MAGGIE MICHAEL The Associated Press

CAIRO - Al-Qaida vowed to keep fighting the United States and avenge the death of Osama bin Laden, which it acknowledged for the first time Friday in an Internet statement apparently designed to convince followers that it will remain vigorous and intact even after its founder's demise.

Barack Obama
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President Obama greets military personnel prior to addressing troops Friday at Fort Campbell, Ky. Obama also met privately with the commandos he sent after terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Obama called the bin Laden raid one of the most successful intelligence and military operations in America’s history, and said he had to come to extend personal thanks. Obama said his meeting with special operations forces “was a chance for me to say on behalf of all Americans and people around the globe, job well done, job well done.” The identities of the men who killed bin Laden are likely to remain secret forever. White House officials released few details of Friday’s meetings and would not formally confirm whether Obama actually met members of Navy SEAL Team 6, whose existence is officially classified.

The Associated Press

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Al-Qaida's plots are usually large-scale and involve planning over months or even years. But Western intelligence officials say they are seeing increased chatter about cheap, small-scale attacks -- perhaps by individuals or small extremist groups inspired to take revenge for the killing.

"USA, you will pay!" chanted more than 100 participants in a pro-bin Laden protest outside the U.S. Embassy in London on Friday.

A Western intelligence official said no concrete threat has emerged so far that authorities considered credible. "There have been mentions of shootings, bombings and random violence, though it is not surprising, given bin Laden's death," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Authorities in the United States and Europe chose not to elevate threat levels. Interpol has asked law enforcement agencies in 188 countries to be on alert for retaliatory attacks. Communities have been warned to report anything suspicious. Embassies and some American businesses have added new security measures.

Despite the Internet chatter, reaction in the Islamic world to bin Laden's death has been relatively muted compared with the rage that he long inspired, raising questions about his relevance in the Middle East -- a region that has been changed by a wave of pro-democracy uprisings.

The al-Qaida statement, entitled "You lived as a good man, you died as a martyr," did not name a successor to bin Laden. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, is now the most prominent figure in the group and a likely contender to take his place.

"The blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is too precious to us and to all Muslims to go in vain," the statement said. "We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries."

"Soon, God willing, their happiness will turn to sadness," it said, "their blood will be mingled with their tears."

The statement was posted on militant websites Friday by the al-Fajr Center, al-Qaida's online media distribution network, and the writing style was typical for al-Qaida. The statement was issued in the name of the organization's General Command and dated Tuesday, the day after bin Laden's death.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials are aware of the statement and the threat. "What it does obviously is acknowledge the obvious, which is that Osama bin Laden was killed," he said. "We're quite aware of the potential for (terrorist) activity and are highly vigilant on that matter for that reason."

Despite the new threats against the United States, the overall theme of the al-Qaida statement was that of continuity for the organization. Much of the 11-paragraph statement was dedicated to underlining that al-Qaida would live on, depicting bin Laden as another in a line of "martyrs" from the group.

"Sheik Osama didn't build an organization to die when he dies," the statement read. "The university of faith, Quran and jihad from which bin Laden graduated will not close its doors," it said.

"The soldiers of Islam will continue in groups and united, plotting and planning without getting bored, tired, with determination, without giving up until striking a blow," the statement said.

It said bin Laden was killed "along an established path followed by the best of those who came before him and those who will come after him."

The acknowledgment by al-Qaida should remove doubt among all but the most die-hard conspiracy theorists that bin Laden is in fact dead.

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