DUBAI (Reuters) - Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf called Osama bin Laden’s death on Monday a “positive step” but criticized the United States for launching the raid on the al Qaeda leader within his country’s borders.
Musharraf, who lost power in 2008, told Reuters that Pakistani intelligence ought to have known bin Laden was living near Islamabad. He also said al Qaeda supporters may take revenge against the United States and Pakistan.
Describing the killing as a victory for the people of Pakistan, Musharraf said: “It’s a very positive step and it will have positive long-term implications.”
“Today we won a battle, but the war against terror will continue,” Musharraf said in Dubai, where he has a home.
Bin Laden died in the garrison town of Abbottabad, 35 miles north of Islamabad, where U.S. forces tracked down the al Qaeda leader who had eluded capture for years.
Musharraf said, however, that the operation had infringed on his nation’s sovereignty: “It’s a violation to have crossed Pakistan’s borders,” he said in an interview.
Musharraf also criticized Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus for failing to find bin Laden, whose group staged the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
“It’s an intelligence failure,” said Musharraf, who quit office to avoid impeachment charges. “The intelligence ought to have known.”
Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid on bin Laden only after it had taken place, highlighting a lack of trust between Washington and Islamabad.
Musharraf called bin Laden’s decision to hide near the capital, rather than in the remote regions of the country where he was thought to be hiding, “an intelligent act.”
At the same time, Musharraf admitted that the attack came at a time when al Qaeda’s influence in Pakistan — a front line in the United States’ fight against Islamist militancy — had been replaced by growing Taliban influence.
“Osama is a person who declared war on Pakistan and many of the terrorist acts have been linked with al Qaeda, therefore it’s a victory for Pakistan,” said Musharraf.
Musharraf, who took office in 1999 through a bloodless coup, two years before the attacks on U.S. soil in 2001, repeated his pledge to return to Pakistan before the next elections, due by 2013. He said he did not expect to face arrest if he returns, but has admitted that he fears assassination attempts.
Reporting by Amena Bakr; writing by Reed Stevenson; editing by David Stamp