ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Al Qaeda confirmed Osama bin Laden was dead on Friday, dispelling some of the fog around the killing of the “holy warrior,” and vowed to mount more attacks on the West.
The announcement by the Islamist network, which promised to publish a taped message from bin Laden soon, appeared likely to silence doubts expressed by some that he had died at all.
In a statement online, it said bin Laden’s blood “is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain.”
“It will remain, with permission from Allah the Almighty, a curse that hunts the Americans and their collaborators and chases them inside and outside their country.”
Al Qaeda urged Pakistanis to rise up against their government to “cleanse” the country of what it called the shame brought on it by bin Laden’s shooting and of the “filth of the Americans who spread corruption in it.”
“Before the sheikh passed from this world and before he could share with the Islamic nation in its joys over its revolutions in the face of the oppressors, he recorded a voice recording of congratulations and advice which we will publish soon, God willing,” the militant group said.
“We warn the Americans not to harm the corpse of the sheikh or expose it to any indecent treatment or to harm any members of his family, living or dead, and to deliver the corpses to their families,” it added. U.S. officials say bin Laden’s body has been buried at sea.
Anger and suspicion between Washington and Islamabad showed no sign of dispersing.
A U.S. drone killed 17 in northwest Pakistan, despite warnings from the Pakistani military against the mounting of attacks within its borders. Islamists in the south rallied to vow revenge for the shooting of the “martyr” bin Laden. Afghan Taliban and Islamist Indonesian youths made similar threats.
“FIVE YEARS” IN COMPOUND
One of Osama bin Laden’s wives, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, told Pakistani interrogators the al Qaeda leader had been living for five years in the compound where he was killed by U.S. forces this week, a Pakistani security official told Reuters.
The revelation appeared sure to heighten U.S. suspicions that Pakistani authorities have been either grossly incompetent or playing a double game in the hunt for bin Laden and the two countries’ supposed partnership against violent Islamism.
Pakistani security forces took between 15 and 16 people into custody from the Abbottabad compound after U.S. forces removed bin Laden’s body, said the security official. Those detained included bin Laden’s three wives and several children.
Surveillance of bin Laden’s hideout from a CIA safe house in Abbottabad had led to his killing in the Navy SEAL operation, U.S. officials said.
The U.S. officials, quoted by the Washington Post, said the safe house had been the base for intelligence gathering that began after bin Laden’s compound was discovered last August.
U.S. officials told the New York Times computer files and documents seized at his compound showed bin Laden had for years orchestrated attacks from the Pakistani town, and may have been planning a strike on U.S. railways this year.
The fact that bin Laden was found in a garrison town — his compound was not far from a military academy — has embarrassed Pakistan and the covert raid has angered its military.
On Thursday, the Pakistan army threatened to halt counter-terrorism cooperation with the United States if it conducted any more similar raids.
It was unclear if such attacks included drone strikes which the U.S. military regularly conducts against militants along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
On Friday U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles into a house in North Waziristan region on Friday, killing at least 17 suspected militants.
Pakistani security officials have charged that U.S. troops, after landing by helicopter, shot the unarmed al Qaeda leader in cold blood rather than in a firefight, as U.S. officials first suggested.
One senior Pakistani official told Reuters on Friday: “We didn’t find any bullet shells inside the house. There is no doubt that no shots were fired from there.”
Another security official said: “If there was exchange of fire between U.S. Navy SEALS and people inside the house then they (Americans) should prove it. They must have footage of the operation. They should release it.”
In Washington, people familiar with the latest U.S. government reporting on the raid told Reuters on Thursday only one of four principal targets shot dead by U.S. commandos had been involved in hostile fire.
U.S. officials originally spoke of a 40-minute firefight. The White House has blamed the “fog of war” for the changing accounts.
U.N. human rights investigators called on the United States to disclose the full facts “to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards.”
“It will be particularly important to know if the planning of the mission allowed an effort to capture bin Laden,” Christof Heyns and Martin Scheinin said in a joint statement.
FEW QUALMS AMONG AMERICANS
Few Americans appear to have qualms about how bin Laden was killed, and on Thursday people cheered President Barack Obama when he visited the site of New York’s twin towers, leveled by al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people.
But many Americans are questioning how bin Laden could live for years in a town teeming with military personnel, 50 km (30 miles) from Islamabad. Two U.S. lawmakers have complained about the billions in U.S. aid to impoverished Pakistan.
Seeking to repair ties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Rome on Thursday that Washington was still anxious to maintain its alliance with Islamabad.
Friction between Washington and Pakistan has focused on the role of Pakistan’s top security service, the ISI or Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir denied Pakistani forces had aided al Qaeda.
Lobbyists for Pakistan in Washington have launched an intense campaign on Capitol Hill to counter accusations that Islamabad deliberately gave refuge to bin Laden.
(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Dubai, Michael Georgy in Islamabad and Reuters bureaux worldwide; writing by Andrew Roche; editing by Angus MacSwan)