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Saudis hope for fresh start after bin Laden death

world Updated: May 02, 2011 21:34 IST

Saudi Arabia's government has welcomed Osama bin Laden's killing as a boost to international anti-terror efforts while residents expressed the hope that a violent chapter in their history had been closed.

"Saudi Arabia hopes that the elimination of the leader of the terrorist al-Qaeda organisation will be a step towards supporting international efforts aimed at combating terrorism..." the official SPA news agency reported on Monday.

SPA quoted a government official as saying that the kingdom had suffered immensely from the violence of bin Laden, who was born in Saudi Arabia as one of some 54 children born to Mohammad bin Laden.

US President Barack Obama had announced bin Laden's killing by US troops in an operation on Sunday in Pakistan where he had been in hiding. The Saudi authorities stripped bin Laden of his nationality in 1994.

Several members of the bin Laden family declined comment on Monday about the sensational announcement of his killing which was listened to by Saudis across the country.

Saudi Arabia had experienced a wave of al-Qaeda attacks targeting oil installations and foreign interests between 2003 and 2006.

After suffering severe setbacks, the terror network fled to neighbouring Yemen where they merged with al-Qaeda elements in Yemen in January 2009 to establish what is known as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

An AQAP suicide bomber failed to assassinate Saudi deputy interior minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a son of the Saudi interior minister, in 2009.

Monday's announcement of bin Laden's demise was the main topic of conversation, with Saudis glued to their televisions or computers to track developments on the Internet.

"Osama bin Laden was responsible for the deaths of thousands of people worldwide, mostly Muslims," said one Saudi national who declined to give his identity.

"He has drawn widespread hatred towards Islam by placing it next to terrorism. Every Muslim has become suspect in the West. That is his fault," he said, adding that bin Laden's death may help "turn a page and end attacks."

However, 33-year-old Mohammed Abdullah said he still had sympathy for the al-Qaeda chief.

"He died a martyr, and that's what he wanted from the years of jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. May his soul rest in peace," Abdullah said, adding that he did not share bin Laden's extremist ideas.

Student Nasser Ismail said he was "sad" that the terror chief was killed by US forces, but hoped that the death may bring an end to discriminatory religious and ethnic profiling of Muslims.

Abdel Rahman Turki, a 35-year-old trader, said he had suspicions about bin Laden's death after Pakistan television withdrew as fake a photograph it had earlier shown as the bullet-riddled face of the al-Qaeda chief.

"He is perhaps not dead, and it's just a ploy of US President Barack Obama before the elections," he said adding: "We are accustomed to false reports from Americans."