THE US State Department has put American embassies on alert and warned of the heightened possibility of anti-American violence after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by American forces in Pakistan.
In a worldwide travel alert released shortly after US President Barack Obama announced the killing, the department said there was an “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter terrorism activity in Pakistan”.
“Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, US 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,” it said.
US embassy operations would continue “to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation”.
It said embassies and consulates may temporarily close or suspend public services, depending on conditions.
Meanwhile, experts claim that by killing bin Laden, American special forces have cut off the “head of the snake”.
His death is expected to cripple al-Qaida and will come as a major blow for its supporters.
Analysts predicted the organisation will not go down without a fight, warning of serious reprisals in the short-term.
Terror expert Dr Razaq Raj, based at Leeds Metropolitan University, said it would be “impossible” for al-Qaida to re-establish its grip on the wider world.
“It will be very difficult for anyone to take over from bin Laden,” he said.
“There’s still the second in command (Egyptian-born doctor and surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri) and if he is still there, if he has not been killed, al-Qaida could be reunited. But I don’t think it will easy.”
“It will be very, very clear-cut now that the backbone of al-Qaida has been destroyed.
“He was the figurehead and now that the figurehead is gone, I think it will be impossible for them.”
Professor Anthony Glees, director of the centre for security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, echoed his remarks, suggesting this may be the beginning of the end for al-Qaida.
Likening his death to those of both Hitler and Mussolini, he said: “It is very important news that the head of the snake has been cut off.
“If you look at history for parallels, I would say there is an argument for being optimistic and for saying we can move forward now.
“This is a massive blow to the prestige of al-Qaida, there is no doubt about that. It was a movement that was originally based on the charisma that bin Laden could exercise and the fact that the snake has been decapitated will demoralise al-Qaida and its affiliated groups.”
But he reiterated fears that the terrorist group is likely to launch some form of retaliation in the short-term. “I think we are in for a very dramatic 24 to 48 hours,” he said.
Another terror expert, John Gearson, said even with al-Zawahiri at the helm, al-Qaida could not be the organisation it once was.
“I think there will continue to be plots and threats and attacks but the threat that it represents to the world will have been reduced by bin Laden’s removal and by the undermining of the al-Qaida brand.”
He said Al-Zawahiri did not have the “symbolic importance” of bin Laden, whose name is well-known.
However, he urged caution, adding: “Just because you have decapitated the leadership of al-Qaida doesn’t necessarily mean the organisation has been beaten, because it obviously has not.”
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