Riyadh happy its people will no longer be al-Qaeda targets as Yemen calls killing a ‘monumental milestone’ Saudi Arabia was slow to react to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, but said it hoped that the killing of its most notorious and wayward son would help the international fight against terrorism and stamp out the “deviant thought” behind it.
A terse statement by the official Saudi news agency quoted an unnamed “official source” on a subject which has always caused the conservative kingdom acute embarrassment.
“It will be a step toward supporting international efforts to combat terror and dismantle al-Qaeda cells, apart from wiping out the deviant thought fuelling it,” the official said. “With their crimes, such as the murders of innocent people, threatening the security and stability of society, the Saudi people have been the major targets of the terror organisation.” Comments on Twitter and other social networks reflected bitterly divided feelings, with some condemning Bin Laden as a criminal who had blackened the reputation of Saudi Arabia and distorted Islam, while others hailed him as a martyr.
“He died a martyr, and that’s what he wanted from the years of jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan,” Mohammed Abdullah, 33, told the AFP news agency. “May his soul rest in peace.” He added that he did not share Bin Laden’s extremist ideas.
Bin Laden’s relatives in Saudi Arabia declined to comment.
Al-Qaeda attacked oil installations and foreign targets in Saudi Arabia between 2003 and 2006 but was in effect defeated. Its remaining supporters were driven underground or fled to Yemen.
In Yemen, Bin Laden’s ancestral homeland, the government called the killing a “monumental milestone in the ongoing global war against terrorism”. The statement issued by Yemen’s embassy in Washington seemed designed to stress that the beleaguered President Ali Abdullah Saleh still plays a central role in that campaign.
Activists urged anti—government protesters not to mention Bin Laden, to avoid triggering an even harsher crackdown on street demonstrations aimed at toppling Saleh’s autocratic government. Tens of thousands of protesters have camped out in public squares across the country for the past three months, demanding the departure of Saleh, who has ruled for nearly 33 years.
“We are not working with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We have one cause and it is the fall of the regime. This is what matters to us,” Mohammed Saad, a protester, told Reuters.
In a Facebook message, protest organisers said: “Do not get absorbed by the matter of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Do not raise pictures or banners or mention Bin Laden, as the [Yemeni] regime is planning now to exploit this issue for its interests,” it added, urging recipients to spread the word.
The foreign ministers of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, at a meeting of Gulf foreign ministers in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, all declined to comment on bin Laden’s death.