1st Dec 2022

EU cheers reported killing of Osama bin Laden

  • Ground Zero some 10 years later: the attack launched the US' 'War of Terror' and defined a new era (Photo: Dorli Photography)

A US-ordered strike in Pakistan which reportedly killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden has been met with "relief" and talk of a "safer world" by EU leaders, despite the bloc's official stance against targeted assassinations.

"The news that Osama bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world," said British Prime Minister David Cameron in a statement.

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Cameron was the first among EU leaders to react to the announcement made on Sunday night (1 May) by US President Barack Obama that he had ordered the "operation" which killed the top terrorist. A spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel later said the German leader had communicated her "relief" at the news to the US president.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt tweeted: "A world without Osama Bin Laden is a better world. His hatred was a threat to us all."

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and EU commission chief in a joint statement said: "Osama Bin Laden was a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. His death makes the world a safer place." They also spoke of solidarity with "our friends in the Muslim world in combating the scourge of global extremism."

The news comes almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by Bin Laden which killed thousands in New York and Washington.

For his part, the EU's ambassador to Afghanistan, Vygaudas Usackas, welcomed the news that Bin Laden has been "finally hunted down" in the city of Abottabad, some 80 kilometres northeast of Islamabad.

"It could be a gamechanger in boosting the morale and confidence of the US and international community that the efforts and sacrifices of almost the past 10 years of involvement in Afghanistan and in the region are not in vain."

The killing, according to Usackas "will inject the regional players with confidence to move forward with greater cooperation and steps in support of peace and reconciliation."

The head of the EU parliament, Jerzy Buzek, chose similar words.

"We have woken up in a more secure world. Although the fight of the international community against terrorists is not over, an important step has been made in the fight against al Qaeda, to give security to millions of people: Christians, Muslims, all those who believe in peaceful coexistence," he said.

But not all members of the EU parliament met the news with similar enthusiasm.

Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala, chairwoman of the human rights committee in the EU legislature, told this website that it would have been "much better if he was brought to justice alive."

"I am sure the discussion will continue, including in the European Parliament, as to why it was needed for him to be killed. The aim should have been not to wage a war against al Qaeda and countries suspected of giving them protection, but to make terrorism an issue of international criminal justice."

Hautala also said Washington should use the moment to close its detention centre in Cuba where many terrorist suspects have been held for years without trial.

"It is not surprising. Perhaps it is also a moment for the US now after they have achieved this to put their own detention policies up to date with international standards and close Guantanamo once and for all, after it caused so much justified anger against the western world," she said.

Meanwhile, Usackas also warned that: "the fight against international terrorism is not over. The root causes of international terrorism will need to be addressed and it will require resolve and staying power by the US, European Union and broader International Community."

With the US and UK quickly issuing an alert for all American and British citizens travelling abroad to be on their guard for possible revenge attacks, the news could also spell added danger to four French citizens currently being held by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Update: the article was updated at 11am Brussels time to add the Van Rompuy and Barroso joint statement

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