Even as spontaneous celebrations erupted across the United States following President Barack Obama’s announcement of Osama Bin Laden’s killing, the U.S. President sought to emphasise that his country would never be at war with Islam, and also that Pakistan’s counterterrorism cooperation had been important in the operation.
As the President made a formal statement providing some background to the assault by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, leading to the killing of the alleged 9/11 attacks mastermind in a fire-fight, large crowds of revellers gathered outside the White House here and near Ground Zero in New York City. Comprising mostly younger, college-aged individuals at first, the crowds waved the American flag and chanted “USA, USA!” and “Yes we can!”
While many of those speaking to media expressed joy, a sense of justice delivered or closure, hearing the news of Bin Laden’s death, Mr. Obama sought to temper the emotional outpourings, cautioning, We must also reaffirm that the U.S. is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.”
He said that he had made clear, just as Mr. Bush did shortly after 9/11, “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.” Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, Mr. Obama said.
Praise for Pakistan
The President also praised Pakistan as its “counterterrorism cooperation... helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.” However there was some confusion with regard to the level of involvement of Pakistani intelligence in the operation against Bin Laden.
While Pakistani officials were quoted in media as saying that they did have prior knowledge of the assault in Abbottabad, U.S. officials appeared to deny this, with one senior administration official saying, “We had shared this information with no other country, and... a very, very small group of individuals within the U.S. government was aware of this. That is for operational security purposes.”
However Mr. Obama said that he had called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday night, and Pakistani officials “agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.”