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The manhunt for Osama bin Laden is over. Nearly 10 years after the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, U.S. forces are said to have assassinated the Saudi-born founder of al-Qaeda on Sunday inside Pakistan. President Obama addressed the news late on Sunday night.
President Barack Obama: “Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
One of bin Laden’s sons, two other men and one woman were also killed in the attack. U.S. officials said bin Laden was buried at sea after a DNA test was conducted. At the time of his death, bin Laden was living in a heavily fortified mansion just a mile from the Pakistani army’s principal military academy. The U.S. operation was reportedly carried out by 25 Navy SEALs under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command. It is unclear what role Pakistan played in the killing. The Pakistan Taliban has threatened to attack Pakistani leaders, the army and the United States after the bin Laden killing. Meanwhile, the U.S. Army has increased security levels at all of its bases and installations. Crowds began gathering outside the White House and at Ground Zero late last night celebrating the news of bin Laden’s death. This is Jake Diliberto, a Marine Corps veteran who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jake Diliberto, U.S. Marine Corps veteran: “We’ve been chasing this ghost bin Laden around Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and Yemen and everywhere else, and finally we can bring back — bring our troops home. We can use the rule of law to protect our borders against another terrorist attack or something like this. But we don’t need to be sending our troops and invading other countries anymore. And today is a good day for us.”
The killing of Osama bin Laden comes as Taliban-led militants announced a springtime offensive in Afghanistan, killing at least 11 people on Sunday. In one attack, a suicide bomber said to be 12 years old killed four people. The Taliban has warned civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as government offices.
In news from Libya, NATO forces bombed Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s compound on Saturday, killing his 29-year-old son Saif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren, all of whom were under the age of 12. Gaddafi was reportedly inside the compound at the time of the attack. Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio condemned the NATO attack, saying, “NATO’s leaders have blood on their hands. NATO’s air strike seems to have been intended to carry out an illegal policy of assassination.” Another NATO air strike damaged a Libyan preschool for children with Down syndrome and two government buildings. Hours after the attack, backers of the Libyan government set fire to the vacant British and Italian embassies in Tripoli as well as the U.S. commercial and consular affairs department. Following the fires, the United Nations evacuated its international staff from Tripoli. Meanwhile, the Libyan city of Misurata remains under siege. There are reports that Gaddafi has ordered Libyan naval vessels to mine Misurata harbor and has threatened to attack any ships that brought food or medicine to the residents of the besieged city.
Syrian security forces killed scores of protesters over the weekend, while arresting hundreds of demonstrators in house-to-house raids. Looking for men under 40 years old, security forces broke into houses in Daraa on Sunday while tanks shelled the city. On Saturday, Syrian forces seized a key mosque in the city. Meanwhile, at least 233 members members of Bashir Assad’s ruling Baath Party have resigned in protest over the violent crackdown. On Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva voted to condemn Syria’s use of force against peaceful protesters. Kyung-wha Kang is the U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Kyung-wha Kang, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights: “Syria has a responsibility to protect its population from crimes against humanity and other international crimes. In this context, I should like to underscore that any official ordering or undertaking of attacks against the civilian population can be held criminally accountable. Such attacks that occur on a widespread or systematic basis may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Yemen is facing a new political crisis after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign a deal to resign from office in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The deal was brokered by Gulf Arab states and had already been agreed to by Yemen’s ruling party, the General People’s Congress. Saleh has ruled Yemen for 32 years.
Voters in Canada head to the polls today for a general election that could result in the left-leaning New Democratic Party heading a coalition government for the first time in the party’s history. Polls show the Conservatives running first, followed by the NDP and then the Liberals. If the Conservatives do not win a majority of the seats in the House of Commons, a coalition NDP-Liberal government could unseat the Conservatives from power.
The death toll from last week’s tornado outbreak in the South has topped 350 people. Hardest hit was Alabama, where 255 people died and more than 2,200 people were injured or hospitalized. The National Weather Service estimates there were 266 tornadoes in the 24-hour period from Wednesday to Thursday.
Tens of thousands of people marched in May Day protests across the United States Sunday calling for immigrant and labor rights. Thanu Yakupitiyage is part of the New York Immigration Coalition.
Thanu Yakupitiyage: “May Day today has been really, really inspiring to see so many people from so many different ethnic communities, from labor coalitions, from unions, both undocumented and documented really coming together. And I think this is a very strange time with workers’ rights that are being put in jeopardy from Wisconsin, immigrants’ rights, whether it be in Arizona or Georgia and here in New York. We really need to come together as one of the most diverse cities in the United States to really show that we are here to support workers’ rights and immigrant rights together.”
In Egypt, thousands of workers and activists poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square Sunday for the country’s first independent celebration of International Workers’ Day since 1952. People in the square celebrated the formation of labor unions independent of state control and the newly created Egyptian Federation for Independent Unions. A group of labor leaders and activists also announced the formation of a new political party called the Democratic Labor Party. Party member and journalist Hossam el-Hamalawy laid out some of its main demands.
Hossam el-Hamalawy, journalist and activist: “The main demand is definitely the re-nationalization of all the privatized factories, a complete halt to the neoliberal program. The complete freedom must be given to the Egyptian working class to establish its independent unions. I mean, the workers in some sectors are still facing the old managers, who are trying to sabotage their attempts to establish independent unions and the national minimum wage. We have fought so long to raise our national minimum wage to at least 1,200 Egyptian pounds a month. I would like to see those demands achieved as soon as possible.”
The San Francisco Chronicle has accused the Obama administration of threatening to exclude the paper from access to presidential events after one of the paper’s reporters posted a video online of a protest by supporters of Bradley Manning, the accused U.S. Army whistleblower who is accused of releasing classified records to WikiLeaks, during a recent Obama fundraiser in San Francisco. The White House has denied making such threats, but the Chronicle maintains its claims are accurate.
The longtime Cuban exile militant Orlando Bosch has died at the age of 84. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Bosch was involved in 30 acts of sabotage in the United States, Puerto Rico, Panama and Cuba between 1961 to 1968 as part of his failed campaign to topple the Fidel Castro government. In 1989, a Justice Department attorney said that Bosch had been “resolute and unwavering in his advocacy of terrorist violence” and had repeatedly “demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Despite this finding by the Justice Department, President George H.W. Bush overruled Bosch’s deportation order in 1990, allowing Bosch to remain free in Miami where he had lived for the past two decades. In 2005, the late attorney Leonard Weinglass appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss Bosch.
Leonard Weinglass: “He was a man who was convicted in Miami of firing a bazooka at a Polish freighter in the harbor. He is a man who’s implicated in the shootdown of the commercial aircraft, the Cuban commercial aircraft. And he applied to have permanent residency in the United States. Department of Justice ruled that he was not qualified, because he’s a known terrorist. The President of the United States overruled the Department of Justice at the insistence of his son, who was Jeb Bush, and the President was Bush, Sr. But Mr. Bosch was given permanent residency in the United States where he currently lives.”
A note about Leonard Weinglass: A memorial for him is taking place on May 13 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in Manhattan. He died in March at the age of 78.