Al-Qaeda says bin Laden death will ‘not be wasted’; Pentagon releases videos of terrorist leader in compound

Al-Qaeda has said it will continue to launch more terrorist attacks on the U.S. and warned the death of their leader Osama bin Laden, would “not be wasted”. The statement from the organization, posted on jihadist internet forums, came as the Pentagon released videos filmed inside the terrorist leader’s compound which was raided last weekend. Intelligence officials said at a briefing in Washington, D.C. that the videos showed that bin Laden was still playing an active role in al-Qaeda plotting.

Although the video tapes have no audio, they show bin Laden watching news coverage of himself on television and preparing to record a propaganda film. The tapes are the latest intelligence to emerge from computer equipment seized from bin Laden’s compound during the raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by U.S. special forces last weekend. Earlier this week it emerged bin Laden had been planning an attack on the American rail network on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacksthis year. U.S. officials yesterday stressed that the al-Qaeda plot was only “aspirational”, but involved derailing multiple trains by damaging rail lines at various sites.

Osama bin Laden making a video at his compound in Pakistan.

Tonight one intelligence official said the information gleaned from the computers was the “single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.” The computer equipment also revealed that there were hopes of attacking major transportation hubs, and that during the six years he lived at the compound in Pakistan, bin Laden stayed in close contact with senior affiliates and played an active role in developing terrorist plots. An unnamed U.S. official told The New York Times that bin Laden “wasn’t just a figurehead,” but “continued to plot and plan, to come up with ideas about targets and to communicate those ideas to other senior al-Qaeda leaders.”

Confirming the death of bin Laden in a statement this week, al-Qaeda said his killing would be a “curse” on the U.S. and its allies. “Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears. We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt.” The revelation that al-Qaeda was planning more attacks against the U.S. comes only several days after officials warned the terrorist group was likely to be plotting a revenge attack to avenge the death of bin Laden.

‘We will never forget’

Four days after the raid on the compound, U.S. president Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York on Thursday to pay tribute to the 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks, for which al-Qaeda was found responsible. Bin Laden is believed to have masterminded the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” Obama told firefighters in the city. He laid a wreath made from red, white and blue flowers after meeting with relatives of the victims of the attacks. “We are going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act will see justice,” he said. After the wreath was laid, he stood with his head bowed for a moment of silence.

Barack Obama visited Ground Zero in New York on Thursday. Image: Chris Bridges.

The news of bin Laden’s death after a team of U.S. Navy Seals descended into the compound was greeted with celebrations across the U.S. on Sunday night, but concerns have been raised as to whether the killing was lawful after the terrorist leader’s daughter told Pakistani authorities that he had been captured and then killed. But Attorney General Eric Holder contradicted the statement, saying: “If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate.”

Obama’s visit came a day after he announced he would not be releasing images of bin Laden’s body. In an interview to be aired on CBS News, the president said: “It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool.” The images—described as “very gruesome”—are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.

Growing rift in relations

As Obama travelled to New York, the growing rift between the relations of the U.S. and Pakistan was continuing to grow after officials in Islamabad said the U.S. president may have breached U.N. rules by ordering the raid, because Pakistan was not told in advance. Senior officials within the Pakistani army also ordered the number of American military personnel in the country to be cut to “minimum essential” levels. Salman Bashir, the Pakistani foreign secretary, strained relations further at a press conference when he said there were serious concerns that the U.S. had breached U.N. resolutions on sovereignty, and said Pakistan is determined to “uphold our sovereignty and safeguard our security”. Pakistani army officials risked tautening relations between the two countries again on Thursday as they announced they would consider cutting ties with Washington, D.C. if the U.S. mounted another unannounced raid on their soil, and said they would be expelling U.S. military personnel in retaliation.

The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, attacked "baseless speculation" that Pakistan was harboring bin Laden.

The conflict stems from the raid during the weekend on the Abbottabad compound. Pakistan says it was not informed about the raid, which involved U.S. helicopters flying into Pakistani airspace to drop commandos who raided the house. The rift has grown further after U.S. officials questioned how Pakistani intelligence allowed bin Laden to live in the compound, a short distance from a military training academy, and suggested the terrorist leader may have been harbored by the government. The director of the CIA said earlier this week that Pakistan was not informed about the raid because of fears he was being harbored by Pakistani officials who might warn him about the raid. The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, dismissed “baseless speculation” that his administration was sheltering bin Laden.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted tension between Washington and Pakistan over the raid had been exaggerated, and said she was keen to keep relations with Islamabad. “It is not always an easy relationship. You know that,” she said. “But, on the other hand, it is a productive one for both our countries and we are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law-enforcement agencies, but most importantly between the American and Pakistani people.”

Cquote1.svg Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears. Cquote2.svg

—al-Qaeda statement on Osama bin Laden’s death

Sweden aims to extradite Assanage to US: lawyer

Julian Assange’s lawyer in Britain has accused Swedish authorities of secretly planning to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, in an interview with a German newspaper to appear tomorrow.

 

Julian Paul Assange

Attorney Mark Stephens told the weekly Die Zeit that he believed Swedish officials were cooperating with US authorities with an eye to extraditing Assange as soon as the Americans have built a criminal case against him.

“We are hearing that the Swedish are prepared to drop the rape charges against Julian as soon as the Americans demand his extradition,” he said, citing sources in Washington and Stockholm.

Stephens called the Swedish charges against his client a “holding case” to buy time until the United States can prosecute him themselves over WikiLeaks’ mass release of classified US documents.

Southwest Airlines to purchase AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion

Low-cost US airline Southwest Airlines announced Monday that it would buy its low-cost rival AirTran Airways for US$1.4 billion. The merger announcement comes just days after United Airlines sealed a merger deal with Continental Airlines.

“The acquisition of AirTran represents a unique opportunity to grow Southwest Airlines’ presence in key markets we don’t yet serve and takes a significant step towards positioning us for future growth,” Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest, said after the merger was announced.

A Southwest Airlines aircraft. Currently, the airline only serves the US market; however, if they successfully purchase AirTran Airways they will gain international routes to Mexico and the Caribbean. Image: Luiz Eduardo.

The Southwest-AirTran deal, which awaits antitrust regulatory approval, will gain Southwest a larger US network. By merging with AirTran, Southwest will also be a strong competitor in Eastern United States cities such as New York City, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, Atlanta, Georgia and Washington, D.C., cities that Southwest had previously not touched much. Southwest also will be going international for the first time, inheriting AirTran’s Mexican and Caribbean routes. The newly merged company would keep Southwest’s name and livery.

Southwest will be offering AirTran stockholders US$7.69 per share. That’s 69% more than AirTran’s Friday, September 24 closing price. However, Airtran stock shot up 62% to $7.36 on Monday, while Southwest’s stock rose more modestly to US$14.01. Delta Air Lines stock declined by 2% on Monday, as Southwest will gain an AirTran hub at Atlanta, which is also Delta’s primary hub.

An AirTran airplane. The company flew 23,998,000 passengers in 2009. Image: Cubbie_n_Vegas .

The new airline would carry over 100 million passengers, creating the world’s fourth largest airline. Last year, Southwest carried 101,338,000 passengers, while AirTran carried 23,998,000 fliers. Southwest will be 25% larger after the merger is completed.

Debate over airfare hikes

Though some people worry that airfares will go up, as people worried about during the United-Continental merger, others, including Southwest, aren’t too worried. “America needs this now. You could go from Rochester, N.Y., to somewhere on AirTran, and from Charlotte to somewhere on AirTran. But with this deal you can now go just about anywhere in the country, and to the Caribbean and Mexico, on Southwest.. . With the more than 100 destinations that Southwest will now have, all the legacy airlines will have to set their prices based on whatever Southwest does,” says Tom Parsons of BestFares.com.

Consumer advocate Clark Howard also weigned in witha positive remark on the deal. “It’s so good for the flying public. This is an opportunity for a discounter to have the kind of heft and national reach of the full-fare airlines,” he said.

Southwest has even said that fares could go down, as the “Southwest effect”, which is supposed to stimulate competition, “has the potential to stimulate over two million new passengers and over US$200 million in consumer savings, annually” in Atlanta, according to the company. After the merger, Southwest also plans to drop AirTran’s checked baggage fees of US$20-25. Southwest currently does not charge for checked baggage.

“I think America is going to very happy that now they can fly coast-to-coast between 100 U.S. cities and make the legacy airlines be more competitive with the style of Southwest and their low fees,” said Tom Parsons, CEO of Bestfares.com.

Others aren’t as thrilled with the merger of the low-cost airlines. “This is truly a shocker, and it can only mean further consolidation. I don’t think anyone really saw this coming. More than any recent merger, it spells bad news for low fares, since both airlines were leaders in the low fare space and had frequent, almost weekly, sales. I can only imagine that now pressure is on for American to find a partner, and also US Airways, and that will lead to even less fare competition.” says George Hobica, of airfarewatchdog.com. Hobica also said that “The era of irrational, stupid, destructive fare sales is over. This is the new normal. JetBlue now has permission to raise prices between Baltimore and Boston. Other airlines now have permission to raise prices between Washington, D.C., and Florida.”

Thoughm Hobica was generally pessimistic about the deal, he did state that the Southwest takeover would be a win for AirTran customers, “because Southwest has better service than AirTran and lower fees.”

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