Terror threat still very real

Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden

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FOR those who lost loved ones in terrorist atrocities including the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and the London underground bombings in 2005, the death of Osama bin Laden will hopefully bring some kind of closure.

After years of hunting down the al-Qaeda leader in suspected mountain hideaways in Afghanistan, in the end US troops finally got their man after a swoop on an apparently comfortable mansion only a few hundred yards from the military academy known as Pakistan’s Sandhurst.

There was jubilation on the streets of America after president Barack Obama made his televised statement with patriotic crowds gathering outside the White House in Washington and in Times Square in New York.

But reaction on this side of the Atlantic was more measured, with warnings the fight against terror must go on.

The Lancashire family of one victim of the London 7/7 attacks said the news brought no real sense of justice.

David Hartley, whose wife Marie, 34, from Oswaldtwistle, was killed, said he was worried there was no shortage of extremist leaders willing to replace bin Laden.

He said: “They have got one but there are more behind there.

“I can’t see this meaning terrorism is likely to stop there. They might try retaliating a bit more now.

“There is no sense of justice. They have someone but there are plenty of people willing to take his place.

“He is just one of them.”

It is a view shared by Labour’s Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden who stressed this was not the end of the war on terror.

Mr Marsden said: “Obviously the reported death of bin Laden is a key action in this whole process of dealing with al-Qaeda.

“But we must be careful that we do not assume the disappearance of one man solves all the problems al-Qaeda had brought.

“It is part of a broader issue of how we tackle a very small, but dangerous aspect of fundamentalism in the world.

“Removing the titular head will not solve all the problems. We need to continue to engage militarily but also culturally and politically to achieve that result.”

Only last month, Prime Minister David Cameron visited Islamabad with UK military and intelligence chiefs to forge a new security partnership with Pakistan.

Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys Paul Maynard said it was important the world continued the fight against global terrorism in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

He said: “This will not mean the end of terrorism although it’s certainly the case that al-Qaeda has been severely weakened.

“But it does show that we have to continue to strive for peace across the Middle East at a time of great instability and change.”

Security experts also expect retaliation for bin Laden’s killing.

John Gearson, reader in terrorism studies and director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, said organisations across the globe were now likely to “ramp up” their security.

He said: “I would expect embassies and military bases around the world to be on high alert for some time.

“There will be concerns there could be some sort of retaliation, that al-Qaeda may well want to demonstrate that they are still strong and still in the game.

“The danger is that the Americans may well lose their focus, that they will relax and that will provide an opportunity for the remnants of al-Qaeda to reform and grow stronger.”

Osama bin Laden was the most notorious terrorist of modern times, labelled the world’s most wanted man. Until now he had evaded all attempts to track him down, but his bearded image continued to inspire extremists while a series of video and audio messages ensured he remained in the public consciousness.

It was in one 2004 tape that bin Laden finally and unambiguously claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and his al-Qaeda network has since been linked to the July 2005 London bombings and attacks in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh and Istanbul.

While intelligence operations led security chiefs to wipe out other al-Qaeda leaders, bin Laden remained at large, holed up and protected by a ring of trusted tribesmen.

Successive operations involving coalition troops and Pakistani forces failed to penetrate the circle of secrecy.

In the end suspicion was roused by the fact no phone lines or internet cables ran to the property in Abbotabad, a former British garrison, and the residents burned their rubbish rather than putting it out for collection.

Finally the trail ended with the death of the most feared terrorist leader of recent times.