Al-Qaeda Confirms Bin Laden Death, Threatens Attack on U.S.

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

Al-Qaeda confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden and threatened to retaliate “soon” against the U.S.

Bin Laden’s blood “is too valuable to us and to every Muslim to let it go in vain,” said a statement attributed to al-Qaeda, dated May 3 and posted on websites that have carried confirmed jihadist statements in the past.

“We will continue to hunt the Americans and their operatives inside and outside their country,” the group said. “Soon by God’s help, their happiness will be turned to grief and their tears will be mixed with their blood.”

Security was heightened across the U.S. and at government installations worldwide following President Barack Obama’s announcement on May 1 that the al-Qaeda leader had been killed.

U.S. officials, including Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta, have warned about possible retaliatory attacks. Attorney General Eric Holder held a conference call with U.S. attorneys this week to ensure law enforcement officials are “on their toes,” he said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 4.

Bin Laden, the instigator of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington, was shot dead in a raid by U.S. commandos on his compound in Abbottabad, an army headquarters town 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

‘Highly Vigilant’

Obama was informed of the latest al-Qaeda threats, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One. Obama today is traveling to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where the president will meet one of the special forces units that helped carry out the assault on bin Laden’s compound.

“We’re quite aware of the potential for activity and are highly vigilant on that matter for that reason,” Carney said.

He also said that al-Qaeda’s statement helps prove “the obvious, which is that Osama bin Laden was killed on Sunday night by U.S. forces.”

The U.S. commandos retrieved a trove of intelligence material from the raid, including computers, storage media and documents that showed bin Laden helped to guide the tactics, strategy and operations of al-Qaeda while holed up in his compound in Pakistan, a U.S. official said.

The discovery contradicts the previous view of intelligence officials who had thought that U.S. efforts to track down bin Laden had forced him to stay out of touch with the group.

Access to Technology

Michael Scheuer, who led the CIA’s hunt for bin Laden in the 1990s, said U.S. officials, including Obama and former President George W. Bush, underestimated the access bin Laden had to technology enabling him to communicate with others.

“If Mr. Bush had walked through a Radio Shack in the past 20 years, he would have been less confident that bin Laden was isolated,” he said in an interview.

Among the items found in the compound was a notebook showing that the terrorist group in February 2010 was considering attacks on American railroads, a second U.S. official said.

The train plot was envisioned to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2011, assault, according to another U.S. official who declined to be identified.

That prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue an alert to local law enforcement officials about a potential threat.

Intelligence analysts are sifting through the materials, searching for evidence of immediate threats and locations of al-Qaeda members, Scheuer said.

Follow-Through Operations

“Primarily what they’re doing is racing to conduct follow-up operations to hurt al-Qaeda as much as possible,” he said.

Whenever the U.S. gets information from al-Qaeda, it’s the group’s practice to assume operations have been compromised and shut down as quickly as possible safe houses, and change e-mail addresses and cell phones, he said.

The al-Qaeda statement called on Pakistanis to “cleanse” their country of Americans. “We invite the Muslim people of Pakistan, whose soil Osama was killed on, to rise and revolt to wash away this shame brought upon them by a group of traitors.”

Al-Qaeda will survive its leader’s killing because “Sheikh Osama did not build an organization that would die with his death,” according to the statement. The group said it will soon release an audio tape made by bin Laden a week before he was killed “congratulating” Muslims on the recent revolutions in the Middle East.

Muslim Funeral

The statement ends with a warning to the U.S. against defiling the body of Bin Laden, suggesting it was written before the U.S. government said his corpse had been weighted down and released into the Arabian Sea following a Muslim funeral ritual performed aboard a ship by military officers.

“We warn the Americans of any tampering with the body of the sheik or subjecting him or any members of his family to any inappropriate treatment,” it said.

Obama said on May 4 that the U.S. won’t release any photographs of Bin Laden’s death because such images shouldn’t be exploited as “trophies,” following calls for them to be published to confirm the al-Qaeda leader’s death. White House officials said his identity was confirmed through photographic comparisons, DNA and other means, including verification by his wife at the compound.

In Egypt, thousands of Salafis, followers of an ultraconservative form of Islam, marched to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to protest bin Laden’s killing, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported today. They denounced Obama and called for “punishment,” MENA said.

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