Just a few months before the tenth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, Osama Bin Laden has been killed by US forces. In his statement to the nation (at 11.30pm Eastern Time), Barack Obama said the al-Qaeda leader was killed last night in a “targeted operation” in Abbottabad, north-east of Islamabad.
It’s a dramatic boost for Obama’s presidency and will likely increase his chances of re-election in 2012. During the 2008 election campaign, he memorably declared: “We will kill Osama Bin Laden.” He has now done so.
Since the news of Bin Laden’s death, crowds have gathered outside the White House and in Times Square, singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and waving American flags. Obama’s demagogic opponents, who forced him to produce his birth certificate last week, look irrelevant on a day like today.
But what Bin Laden’s death does not mean is “the end of al-Qaeda”, or anything like it. The organisation was not dependent on Bin Laden, who had long been its symbolic rather than active head. His death may yet mark a turning point for US foreign policy, but Bin Laden’s followers, who have now acquired a martyr, are likely to seek revenge.
In the meantime, attention is likely to focus on Pakistan. That Bin Laden was found in a secure mansion, within a mile of the military academy known as “Pakistan’s Sandhurst”, will raise more questions over the relationship between that country’s security forces and al-Qaeda.
UPDATE: Bin Laden sleeps with the fishes. A US official has confirmed that the al-Qaeda leader was buried at sea, presumably to avoid his grave becoming a shrine for sympathisers. The US reportedly offered to send the body to Saudi Arabia, his country of birth, but the Saudis refused to take it.