World leaders react to death of Osama bin Laden

Leaders and officals around the world have issued varied reactions to the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed during a U.S. military operation in Pakistan. NATO has insisted it will continue fighting against militants in Afghanistan, and the United Nations said the death of bin Laden marked a “watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism.”

Announcing that the al-Qaeda leader had been killed by U.S. special forces during a forty-minute raid on a compound in Abbottabad, near the capital Islamabad, U.S. President Barack Obama said it was “a good day for America.” Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate winners of the Medal of Honor, Obama praised the “anonymous heroes” who took part in the operation. He said: “We may not always know their names, we may not always know their stories, but they are always there on the front lines of freedom and we are truly blessed. As commander-in-chief, I could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform.”

Barack Obama announces the news that bin Laden had been killed. He said it was "a good day for America." Image: White House.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the chief of NATO, vowed the organization would remain fighting in Afghanistan despite the death of bin Laden. “As terrorism continues to pose a direct threat to our security and international stability, international cooperation remains key and NATO is at the heart of that cooperation,” he said in a statement. “NATO allies and partners will continue their mission to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”

The U.N. and the European Parliament also welcomed the news. Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary general, said: “The death of Osama bin Laden, announced by President Obama last night, is a watershed moment in our common global fight against terrorism. The crimes of al-Qaeda touched most continents, bringing tragedy and loss of life to thousands of men, women and children.”

David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said the news “will be welcomed right across our country” and was a “massive step forward,” but warned the death of bin Laden “does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror.” Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi said: “This is a great outcome in the fight against evil, in the fight against terrorism, a great outcome for the United States and for all democracies”.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the killing of bin Laden was a “decisive strike” at al-Qaeda. “At his command and in his name, terror was enforced into many countries against men women and children, Christians as well as Muslims,” she said. “Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion.”

Several Asian countries also said bin Laden’s death was a step forward in the war against terrorism. Chinese spokeswoman Jiang Yu said “China has taken note of the announcement. We believe the death of Osama bin Laden is a milestone and a positive development for the international anti-terrorism efforts.” Japan, Malaysia and Singapore also welcomed the news.

Australia pledged not to withdraw forces from Afghanistan after the announcement. “Osama bin Laden declared war on innocent people and today he has paid the price for that declaration,” Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister, said. “The mission in Afghanistan will continue,” she added, saying al-Qaeda “will continue”. Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France, said bin Laden was a “promoter of the ideology of hatred and was the chief of a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of victims, especially in Muslim countries,” and “justice has been done” for the victims of al-Qaeda attacks.

Cquote1.svg Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion. Cquote2.svg
—Angela Merkel
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France calls on Libyan leader to step down

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has stated during a news conference that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi “must leave,” calling the leader to step down. His comments were made during a press conference with the Turkish president Abdullah Gül in Ankara. Sarkozy also stated that military action to remove Gaddafi isn’t ruled out.

“Our stance is clear. Mr Gaddafi must go. The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions. Regarding a military intervention … France would consider any initiative of this type with extreme caution and reserve,” said Sarkozy. The United Kingdom is also calling for an arms embargo along with an investigation into war crimes be conducted against Gaddafi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s call on Gaddafi to step down comes after violence on Friday alone has left at least five people dead in Tripoli, the capitol of Libya, when security personnel fired on demonstrators. At least 500 people are suspected to have been killed in Tripoli with over 2,000 injured. Gunshots were heard in several parts of the city on Friday. Navi Pillay, head of the human rights division of the United Nations says thousands in Libya could have been killed since the uprising began. Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at 300.

“We think this needs to be brought to the International Criminal Court. We also think that people who still cooperate with Gadhafi should be punished,” added Sarkozy.

Reports say security forces loyal to Gaddafi have used rocket propelled grenades, snipers, anti aircraft guns and foreign mercenaries to repel protesters. Gaddafi blames Osama bin laden and people on hallucinogenic drugs for the mass protests in the country. “(The protesters’) ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” he said on Thursday.

In a speech that aired on Libyan State TV today, Gaddafi said to supporters in Green Square in Tripoli, “We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people. Prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil. [We can] retaliate against them [the opposition]. You, the youth, be comfortable… dance, sing, stay up all night.”

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