DUBAI Members of militant Islamist forums said on Monday they prayed the news of Osama bin Laden's death was not true and hinted at retaliation if it was.
President Barack Obama announced U.S. forces had killed bin Laden in a raid on his hideout in Pakistan after a nearly 10-year hunt for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
"Oh God, please make this news not true... God curse you Obama," said one message on an Arabic language forum. "Oh Americans... it is still legal for us to cut your necks."
His killing, in a mansion outside of the Pakistani city of Islamabad, dealt a symbolic blow to the global militant network, although Islamist forum posters said the strike would not change their commitment to fighting Western powers.
"Osama may be killed but his message of Jihad will never die. Brothers and sisters, wait and see, his death will be a blessing in disguise," said a poster on another Islamist forum.
Another forum member pointed to the irony of bin Laden's location, contrasting with long-time rumors that he was hiding in caves. "So after 10 years of hiding in mountains, he ends up getting killed in a mansion outside of Islamabad. Interesting."
But the prevailing sentiment was one of grief.
A poster on the Arabic-language Ansar forum said: "God's revenge on you, you Roman dog, God's revenge on you crusaders... this is a tragedy brothers, a tragedy."
Online forums for militant Islamists have been the key means of passing messages from bin Laden and his second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as al Qaeda's regional branches, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.
"Forums play a role in communications and ideas for al Qaeda followers, similar to the way Facebook and Twitter were used by democracy protesters in the Arab revolutions of 2011. It's a powerful medium," said Theodore Karasik, a Dubai-based security analyst for the INEGMA group.
Militants also commonly use the forums to pass tips for making explosives, discuss methods of attacks or voice their opinions on world events.
Many said they should not believe news of the death until it was confirmed online by militant news sources.
"The source of news that we trust is that which comes from the mujahideen (holy warrior)," a message on Ansar forum said. "Be patient and don't spread rumors...we've asked this repeatedly, so please do not write anything on the subject."
Hours later, several of the threads discussing bin Laden's death had been shutdown.
Before a thread on the Islamic Awakening forum was closed, some postings suggested bin Laden's death should be accepted and a new leader found.
"Why can't people admit he was killed? He is a human being, not a prophet. Another man will replace his shoes, it's easy."
Others ridiculed the celebrations in the United States, where crowds cheered and waved flags outside the White House and at New York's "Ground Zero," site of the World Trade Center twin towers felled by hijacked airliners on September 11, 2001.
"Please let them celebrate, they are celebrating their own end," said Abu Aziza on the Islamic Awakening forum. "Oh Allah, destroy this nation for their hatred and enmity toward your deen (religion)."
(Reporting by Erika Solomon; editing by Mark Heinrich and Ralph Boulton)