As the world's attention turns to Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden had been virtually hiding in the open, that country's ambassador to the U.S. urged people to stop speculating whether the Pakistani government was helping him elude capture.
"The important thing to understand is Pakistan is a nation of 180 million. There are people in Pakistan, unfortunately, who had sympathies with Osama bin Laden, and some of them obviously were protecting him or had provided for him while he was there,” Husain Haqqani told CNN from London. “We don’t know what length of time he was there. We don’t know where else he had been during the last several years. But we are all pleased with the fact that the world has been rid of a major figure in global terrorism, and that has been possible because Pakistan has worked with the United States. We both had complaints with one another at different times, but the important thing is, we got him, we succeeded.”
Pakistan's Taliban responded to the news of bin Laden's killing with threats of new attacks against Pakistani and American leaders.
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"Now Pakistani rulers, President [Asif Ali] Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target," Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
On Friday, President Obama authorized a covert U.S. operation to kill bin Laden, who was hiding in a compound in the relatively affluent town of Abbottabad, less than 50 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Obama said Sunday it was "important to note" that cooperation with Pakistan helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden's compound, though Pakistan's foreign ministry called it a U.S. operation and made no mention of Pakistan's role in the mission. The news was an embarrassment to Pakistani authorities, who had maintained for years that they had no idea where bin Laden was.
Ambassadro Haqqani stressed that Pakistan and the U.S. cooperated “in making sure that this operation was successful," and dispelled notions that the Pakistani government may have had knowledge of bin Laden's location. He said that eliminating bin Laden and other terrorists is significant but "we have to understand that there will always be people who have a... negative attitude about these matters. So we should just not get bogged down with that.”
Haqqani urged that people "stop the speculation" about whether or not the Pakistani government had aided bin Laden in hiding.
In Pakistan, “many people live in huge compounds,” he continued. “Obviously somebody had given him this compound and provided him with an opportunity to hide within it." If the Pakistani government had known that bin Laden was there, "we would have got him like we got Khalid Sheik Mohammed... like we got many others."
Now, the Pakistani government is very "grateful" that the U.S. successfully took bin Laden out. "They had superior intelligence, they had superior intelligence, we are grateful to them and to God for having given us this oppourtunity to bring this chapter to an end," he said. "We had no knowledge, and if we had knowledge, we would have acted on it long ago."
Elsewhere in Pakistan, the U.S. consulates in Lahore, Karachi, and Peshawar and the embassy in Islamabad shut down, CNN reported, except for emergency cases with U.S. citizens. The embassy in Islamabad is warning that spontaneous protests at any locations perceived as Western, including restaurants, could erupt and turn violent.
Just hours after the news of bin Laden's death, the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert for U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad due "to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan."
"Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations," the department said in a statement. U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert.
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