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U.S. Boosts Embassy Security, Watches for Bin Laden Strikes

Osama bin Laden
An undated file picture of Osama bin Ladin. Source: AFP/Getty Images

May 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and Australia boosted security at their embassies around the world and Interpol told its 188 member countries to be on “full alert” for attacks to avenge the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Patrol cars, paramilitary forces and commandos wearing bulletproof vests searched motorists and pedestrians outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the nation’s embassies would review their security and urged travelers to be on alert.

“The death of bin Laden does not represent the demise of al-Qaeda affiliates and those inspired by al-Qaeda, who have and will continue to engage in terrorist attacks around the world,” Ronald Noble, secretary general of Lyon, France-based Interpol said in an e-mailed statement.

President Barack Obama yesterday said bin Laden died in a firefight with U.S. forces in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad. His death removes the leader of a group that targeted citizens of the U.S. and its allies in hotels, offices and embassies around the world.

Al-Qaeda may look to strike back quickly, said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

“In the immediate term, there will be some retaliation, there will be some revenge attacks,” he said by phone from Singapore today. “In the long term, the world will be much safer without bin Laden.”

U.S. Wanted List

Bin Laden was wanted by U.S. authorities even before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington that killed almost 3,000 people. He was accused in connection with bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya on Aug. 7, 1998, which killed 224 people, and linked to the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

“The Department of State has requested all U.S. embassies to go to a heightened level of alert in the wake of the news,” David McGuire, a spokesman with the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, said in a telephone interview. “In practice embassy operations will continue as normal here and in most places around the world, we’ll just be a little more cautious.”

The State Department has also issued a worldwide travel alert to U.S. citizens, McGuire said.

“We’re just asking people to be more alert and aware of their surroundings and just exercise a little extra caution, stay away from crowds and demonstrations,” he said.

Philippine Security

Philippine police tightened security in embassies and airports, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda, said in a press briefing in Manila today.

Interpol, the international police organization, warned countries around the globe to be vigilant in the aftermath of the killing, which prompted cheering crowds to gather in New York and Washington.

Australians accounted for 88 of the 202 people killed in the 2002 bombing of a nightclub on the resort island of Bali. A suicide bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 claimed 11 lives.

Indonesia will increase security after the killing of Osama bin Laden, especially in areas that might become “new targets,” Ansyaad Mbai, head of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency, said at a press briefing in Jakarta today. He declined to identify possible specific targets.

The targets of terrorism are Western and domestic, Mbai said, adding that while a recent suicide bombing at a police-station mosque in west Java and other attempted attacks weren’t directly influenced by bin Laden, “anything could happen.”

Security forces in the world’s most populous Muslim country killed Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terrorist, Noordin Mohammad Top, in September 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at

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