Bin Laden’s young neighbours vow revenge

2011-05-10 06:59

Abbottbad – In an Islamic school close to the house where Osama bin Laden lived and died, young Pakistani students are furious over the death of a terror mastermind they considered a religious hero.

Angry over a US raid a week ago in which commandos killed Bin Laden, reportedly in front of his family, at the house that hid him from the world, metres from their school in Abbottabad, they vow revenge.

“This war is not over yet. There are so many mujahedeen (fighters) who will continue Osama’s fight and will defeat America,” said Muhammad Tofail, a 15-year-old student at the biggest seminary in Bilal Town, the suburb that proved to have been Bin Laden’s home for up to five years.

“There are many Osamas in the Muslim world and the US can’t defeat his ideology,” he said.

The West fears such schools preach a zeal that encourages extremism and builds support for al-Qaeda-linked militants in Pakistan, particularly in the tribal northwest where training grounds groom future Islamist fighters.

Islamic seminaries are an alternative to mainstream education for several million children in Pakistan, where only 2% of the GDP goes to public schooling and where 31% of men and 41% of women aged 15 to 24 are illiterate.

“I will myself become Osama and revenge his death one day,” said 10-year-old Abbas Khan, sitting in the playground outside the seminary and metres away from the al-Qaeda chief’s hideout.

The young views reflect part of an ideological battle raging in Pakistan – a country at war with homegrown militants blamed for bomb attacks that killed more than 4 200 people nationwide in the past four years.

But the perceived violation of sovereignty with last week’s operation has united many in anger against the US, and worsened the widespread perception that the government in Islamabad is servile to its superpower ally.

Anti-American sentiment is already rampant over of an ongoing covert US drone campaign that has killed hundreds in the northwest region.

Billions of dollars in military and civilian aid given by the US to Pakistan fails to assuage mass mistrust of the Western power.

Parents in the garrison city of Abbottabad say they fear bin Laden’s death on their soil will only worsen calls for revenge on the West.

“Osama bin Laden has developed a psyche. He has developed a mindset and younger generations are affected,” said Farzana Anis, who took her daughter to see Bin Laden’s hideout.

“If there’s no social uplift in Pakistan, if there’s no education, there is no healthcare, there’s no alleviation of poverty, then this mindset can take place... With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the problem has aggravated.”

Children playing cricket in the street by the heavily guarded compound do not conform to the stereotype of uneducated religious youth.

But despite hailing from middle-class families and attending good schools in the area, this week they are sharing in the anger at America and joining calls for revenge.

“We will avenge Osama bin Laden’s death. We are going to do jihad and we will win. We will beat the Americans,” said one cricket-playing boy, Bilal Umar.

His friend Abbas Khan concurred. “I will grow up to be like Osama,” he said. 

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