D2: Revenge Threats Loom
Threat of revenge emerges after bin Laden killed
Abbottabad, Pakistan (CNN) — A day after international exaltation over Osama bin Laden’s death, questions remain about who might take over his terrorist group and whether a trove of material gathered from his compound might tip off U.S. officials to other al Qaeda leaders and plots.
But already, at least one threat of revenge has surfaced against the United States, which carried out the mission to eliminate bin Laden.
“We are proud on the martyrdom of Osama,” Ahsan Ullah Ahsan, spokesman for Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, said late Monday. “We shall definitely take revenge (on) America.”
When asked how the Pakistani Taliban organization would carry out revenge on America, Ahsan said, “We already have our people in America, and we are sending more there.”
U.S. anticipates al Qaeda threats
Earlier, CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a message to agency employees that terrorists “almost certainly” will attempt to avenge bin Laden’s death.
U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world have been placed on high alert following the announcement of bin Laden’s death, a senior U.S. official said, and the U.S. State Department issued a “worldwide caution” for Americans.
The travel alert warned of the “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”
Bin Laden killing caps decade-long manhunt
But on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the successful mission to eliminate bin Laden sends a message to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which is still battling U.S. and allied forces there.
“You cannot wait us out. You cannot defeat us. But you can make the choice to abandon al Qaeda” and participate in a peaceful political process, Clinton said.
The nearly decade-long manhunt for the mastermind of the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil ended north of Pakistan’s capital Monday when American commandos killed bin Laden in a pre-dawn firefight.
The Saudi exile had been the world’s most wanted man since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people.
Bin Laden’s death brings healing of old wounds
Americans across the country celebrated the news of bin Laden’s death. Throngs reveled outside the White House and in New York on Monday.
“It’s a win for the United States of America,” Al Santora said outside the Manhattan firehouse where his son Christopher once worked. “It’s a win for everybody in the world, the free world, and hopefully we’ll have some more wins.”
Christopher Santora was one of the 343 New York firefighters who died when al Qaeda operatives turned jetliners full of people into missiles packed with jet fuel, using them to bring down the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center. Bin Laden’s followers also flew a hijacked plane into the Pentagon that day, while a fourth airliner crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers attempted to resist.
“We’ll never get him back, but it makes it a little easier,” Santora said.
No obvious successor to bin Laden
But the elimination of bin Laden does not necessarily mean the death of al Qaeda, experts say, though none of bin Laden’s most likely successors offers the same combination of charisma, cash and credibility among militant Muslims.
“They don’t have anybody now who is going to have the star power, the brand name of bin Laden,” said Philip Mudd, a former CIA officer.
The raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Islamabad, came about four years after U.S. intelligence officials identified a man who served as one of the al Qaeda leader’s trusted couriers, according to senior Obama administration officials.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said that despite intelligence indicating that bin Laden was in the compound, there was no certainty the al Qaeda leader was actually there when the president authorized the assault.
Bin Laden was shot in the head and chest during the operation, a senior administration official told CNN.
Four others in the compound died in the raid, including bin Laden’s adult son and a woman, Brennan said.
The operation recovered “quite a bit of material” that intelligence officers will be sifting through to track down other al Qaeda figures, a senior U.S. intelligence official said.
A DNA test indicated with virtual certainty that bin Laden was killed in the operation, a senior administration official told CNN. Officials compared DNA of the person killed with bin Laden “family DNA,” and a senior U.S. defense official said one of bin Laden’s wives identified the body to U.S. forces.
There are also photographs of the body with a gunshot wound to the side of the head that shows an individual who is recognizable as bin Laden, a U.S. government official said. No decision has been made on whether to release the photographs and if so, when and how.
The compound where bin Laden was holed up was surrounded by walls 10 to 18 feet tall and topped by barbed wire. It sat far back from a main road and was relatively secluded. The building showed very little damage on the outside.
An unwitting neighbor said Tuesday he was stunned to learn that he lived near the world’s most wanted terror leader.
The neighbor said if local children kicked a ball into the compound, someone from inside would pay the children for the ball rather than let the children step onto to grounds.
Senior Obama administration officials believe the compound was built five years ago for the specific purpose of hiding the fugitive terrorist leader. The walls surrounded a three-story house in a town that houses a prestigious Pakistani military academy, leading critics to question what Pakistan knew about who was inside.
Courier identified who led U.S. to bin Laden
Brennan said Monday it is “inconceivable” that bin Laden did not have some kind of support system in Pakistan that allowed him to live in hiding there. But he refused to speculate on what kind of support bin Laden might have received, or whether the Pakistani government or official Pakistani institutions had any role.
In a Washington Post column Monday, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote that Pakistan joined other victims of al Qaeda and was pleased “that the source of the greatest evil of the new millennium has been silenced, and his victims given justice.”
“Some in the U.S. press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact,” Zardari wrote.
Obama plans to visit New York on Thursday to meet with families of those killed in the attacks and to visit the World Trade Center site, now being rebuilt but still widely known as “ground zero,” a senior White House official said Monday.
The 9/11 attacks prompted a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda and its allies in the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic militia that ruled most of the country at the time.
“I hope now the world (has) realized that Afghanistan was not a haven for al-Qaeda, but it was in Pakistan — and that has always been pointed out by Afghans,” Fatima Aziz, an Afghan parliament member, said Tuesday.
Bin Laden was the son of a prominent Saudi construction magnate. He turned against the Saudi monarchy when it agreed to allow U.S. troops into the kingdom during the 1991 Persian Gulf war and launched his jihad against the United States in 1997.
He had been implicated in a series of deadly, high-profile attacks that had grown in their intensity and success during the 1990s. They included a deadly firefight with U.S. soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 in August 1998, and a bomb attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors in October 2000.
CNN’s Nic Robertson, Nick Paton Walsh, Elise Labott, Mary Snow, Allan Chernoff, Jeanne Meserve, Pam Benson, Brian Todd, Barbara Starr and Suzanne Kelly contributed to this report.