US warned to expect al-Qaeda revenge attacks

Americans gathered at the site of the World Trade Centre and outside the White House to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden Keystone

Institutions and citizens in the United States should brace themselves for reprisal attacks after the death of Osama bin Laden, a security expert tells

This content was published on May 2, 2011 - 13:12

Albert Stahel, a professor of strategic studies at Zurich University’s Institute for Political Science, added that a secret deal was probably reached with Pakistan over bin Laden’s capture linked to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Bin Laden, the elusive mastermind behind the devastating September 11, 2001 terror attacks, was killed in his hideout in Pakistan in a firefight with US special forces, President Barack Obama said on Sunday.

Three adult males were also reported killed in the raid on his custom-built compound in the town of Abbottabad, about 60km north of the capital Islamabad, including one of bin Laden's sons. A US official later said bin Laden had been buried at sea, the AP news agency reported.

The death of the world's most-wanted man came just months before the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, orchestrated by Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation, that killed almost 3,000 people. The US attacked Afghanistan within months, pursuing al-Qaeda, and an invasion of Iraq followed. What are the consequences of bin Laden’s death for al-Qaeda’s leadership and its affiliated groups?

Albert Stahel: Towards the end of his life bin Laden was only a symbolic figure and was no longer involved in managing al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations.

Now he’ll become a martyr – elevated to something like a saint – and his death will send a signal to the remainder of al-Qaeda, giving them more impetus for their next actions. So should we expect reprisal attacks worldwide?

A.S.: Yes, of course. They will mostly be attacks against US institutions and citizens. Things can restart; they’ve been quiet for some time.

Now groups have the impetus. In Yemen, al-Qaeda was always very important and the same goes for those in North Africa. What are the consequences of his death for the US?

A.S.: The post 9-11 attack period is now over and the US has triumphed. The US operations in Afghanistan are coming to an end. President Obama can now say ‘we have defeated al-Qaeda and we can pull out of Afghanistan’.

I have the impression that a deal has been done between the Pakistanis and the Americans, as without the Pakistanis such operations would not be possible. In the past Pakistan received criticism over its ambiguous role concerning bin Laden. Why did he evade capture for so long?

A.S.: The Pakistanis protected him. He was a kind of bargaining chip. They had the possibility of saying, ‘we have bin Laden and as long as we have him we can put pressure on the Americans and have more influence on the situation’.

With this chip they could then say, ‘We’ll forget bin Laden, you can have him, but you have to do something in return’. And I have the impression that the very important thing is the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. 2014 – the start of US retreat from Afghanistan – is one of the important factors you have to keep in mind.

Global reaction

US President Barack Obama described the operation as, “the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us”.

The New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has said he hopes the news will “bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001”.

Former President George Bush described the death a "momentous achievement" which marks "a victory for America".

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said bin Laden had "paid for his actions".

A Pakistani government statement said bin Laden's death "illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism".

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas condemned the killing and mourned bin Laden as an "Arab holy warrior".

End of insertion

Swiss reaction

President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey welcomed the news of bin Laden's death.

"The fact that al-Qaeda has been decapitated is good news,” she said.
She said Switzerland condemned all kinds of terrorism and was in favour of actions aimed at putting an end to international terrorism.
"My thoughts are with all the victims [of international terrorism] and their families," she said.
Calmy-Rey is currently in Tunisia where she is meeting Swiss ambassadors to North African and Middle Eastern countries.
Defence Minister Ueli Maurer said Switzerland was not a prime target of Islamic terrorists, but he would not exclude attacks.

End of insertion

Articles in this story

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Sort by

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.