Revenge attacks feared after Osama death

News and Press Release
Originally published

PESHAWAR, 4 May 2011 (IRIN) - The death of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden after an operation involving US aircraft and ground forces in Pakistan has raised fears of possible revenge attacks by militants against various targets, including civilians.

The first of these may already have occurred. A bomb blast near a mosque in the town of Charsadda, in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Province, killed a woman and three children and injured 11 other people [ ], but a police station in the vicinity may have been the target.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility, but militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda have been responsible for many similar attacks in the past.

The media have reported attacks on Pakistan and US government targets by the Taliban to avenge Bin Laden's killing, and the US has closed embassies and consulates across the country.

"We are angry - US planes flew in and killed a Muslim. There will be many protests," Laiq Sayyid, 20, a seminary teacher, told IRIN. Demonstrations have taken place in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Many others are desperate to avoid a descent into further violence. "I lost a cousin in an attack on a police check-post two years ago. I have seen mayhem after bomb blasts here. I pray things will not erupt in violence," said Muhammad Naeem, 40.

Few politicians and activists have issued statements, but the National Crisis Management Cell of the Interior Ministry warned of a possible rise in terrorism, and Pakistan's Prime Minister described Osama's death as a "victory".

Others were less certain. "There is great apprehension among the security forces because we fear there will be a violent backlash and policemen die most often when this happens," a policeman who did not wish to be named told IRIN in Peshawar, capital of KP.

Not all militant groups operating in Pakistan are linked to al-Qaeda, which has a presence in many countries, but a number are affiliated to it or draw ideological strength from it, which adds to the risk of violence.

"We can only hope and pray for peace, but who knows what is to come?" said Abdul Ghani, a mosque prayer leader. He believed the militants were still "in shock" after the death of Osama and their "reaction will be decided" in a few days' time.