PARIS/MADRID (Reuters) - For survivors of militant attacks and relatives of those killed and wounded, the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden brought a sense of relief, and even some joy, after years of pain and grief.
Americans poured on to the street to celebrate bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces and people around the world expressed relief that the mastermind behind a series of high-profile attacks was dead.
“For me, this man symbolized evil, and all the misery that I’ve been through for ten years. To know this symbol is gone is a great relief for me,” said Bruno Dellinger, a French businessman who survived the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers after al Qaeda hijackers flew planes into them on September 11, 2001.
Dellinger, who was on the 47th floor of the North Tower when the planes struck, told French RTL radio he felt a “burst of joy” at bin Laden’s death.
He said he had always believed U.S. secret services would track down the man behind September 11 and a series of other plots.
Bin Laden was shot in the head by U.S. forces who stormed his luxury compound in Pakistan after a decade-long manhunt during which he continually evaded capture.
The news, announced by President Barack Obama early on Monday, brought thousands on to the streets of New York and Washington to celebrate, including relatives of people killed in the worst militant attacks in U.S. history.
“I never figured I’d be excited about someone’s death. It’s been a long time coming,” said firefighter Michael Carroll, 27, whose father, also a fireman, died in the September 11 attacks.
“It’s finally here. It feels good,” he said while celebrating at Ground Zero in New York, the site of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers destroyed in the attack.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in an attack that shocked the world and sparked a hunt for the plot’s architect.
Obama said bin Laden’s death brought justice to the American people. Survivors of September 11, and of other al Qaeda attacks in Europe, spoke of a weight being lifted from their shoulders.
“YANKS DESERVE PRAISE”
Bin Laden had been in hiding since he eluded U.S. forces and Afghan militia in an assault on the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001, and had continued to taunt the West and direct militant Islamist activities from his hideout.
Relatives of the victims of subsequent al Qaeda attacks, such as suicide bombings on London’s transport system in July 2005, also hailed bin Laden’s killing.
“I am very happy, and very well done to the Yanks, they deserve their praise,” Sean Cassidy, whose 22-year-old son Ciaran was killed in the London bombings, was quoted as saying on the BBC’s website.
In Spain, Angeles Pedraza, whose daughter was killed in a train bomb attack in Madrid on March 11, 2004 , said on state television: “One should never be happy over the death of a human being, but I will not be true to myself if I don’t tell you I am enormously happy at the death of Osama bin Laden.”
Al Qaeda first struck in east Africa in 1998, killing hundreds of people, mostly Africans, in suicide bombing at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
“Kenyans are happy and thank the U.S. people, the Pakistani people and everybody else who managed to kill Osama,” Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told Reuters.
Amid the euphoria, however, some world leaders and security experts noted the threat of terrorism hanging over the West was far from over and called for vigilance for possible retaliation.
Some victims’ relatives also expressed caution about what bin Laden’s death might mean.
John Falding, whose partner Anat Rosenberg was killed by a suicide bomber on a bus in Tavistock Square, London, told the BBC: “There are plenty more willing to fill his shoes -- all those fanatical organizations have their young pretenders.”
Watching the flag-waving on television in New York, Donna Marsh O‘Connor, who lost her pregnant daughter in the September 11 attack, said she, too, saw little reason to celebrate.
“Osama bin Laden is dead, and so is my daughter,” she told Reuters. “His death didn’t bring her back. We are not a family which celebrates death, no matter who it is.”
Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in Paris; Avril Ormbsy in London and Mark Egan, Basil Batz and Daniel Trotta in New York; Writing by Vicky Buffery; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Andrew Dobbie