5 May 2011

President Obama visits Ground Zero

US President Barack Obama visits Ground Zero in New York, which has become the hub of American celebration over the death of Osama bin Laden. Sarah Smith reports from New York.

The President visited the scene of the 9/11 atrocities in a highly symbolic occasion, marking the death of the man who claimed responsibility for the attacks – Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaeda leader was killed by US forces on Monday.

President Obama laid a wreath at Ground Zero in New York and met with victims’ families, and also visited the Engine 54 firehouse in Midtown Manhattan, which lost 15 members in 9/11.

Obama shook hands with firefighters and told them: “I wanted to just come here to thank you…This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago.”

When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say. President Barack Obama

He said the killing of bin Laden: “sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home, that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say. It didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act – that they received justice.”

But the symbolic visit could still be overshadowed by the White House’s refusal to publish photos of the al-Qaeda figurehead’s body. The President warned to do so would threaten US national security and be used as a propaganda tool. He said: “that’s not who we are.”

While there are celebrations across the United States in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden, some are more reticent.

Merchandise from "Public Enemy #1 is Dead" t-shirts to "Happy NoSama Day" mugs have swept the market in America, but Channel 4 News Washington Correspondent Sarah Smith says some shops are refusing to sell the merchandise, "understandably uncomfortable about celebrating the death of another human being".

This attitude was also voiced on Thursday by the Archbishop of Canterbury over the killing of bin Laden. He said: "Dr Rowan Williams said: "I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done."
Merchandise sold at Ground Zero after Osama bin Laden's death (Getty)

US forces killed al-Qaeda leader and figurehead, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan on Monday.

Details of the story have changed over the course of the week, since the confirmation of bin Laden’s death in the early hours of Monday morning.

Initially the White House said bin Laden attempted to shelter behind his wife, but it has since emerged that he was unarmed when he was shot by US Navy Seals and did not attempt to shelter.

In a briefing on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney had previously insisted the special forces were prepared to take bin Laden alive but said he was “resisting” when he was killed.

Mr Carney also disclosed that a woman who died in the raid had not been acting as a human shield, as previously claimed, but was caught in crossfire.

Celebrations near Ground Zero as news of Osama bin Laden's death hit America (Getty)

However the US continues to stand by the decision to take out Osama bin Laden – as its citizens continue to celebrate his death across the country, despite questions over how the intelligence of his whereabouts may have been obtained.

US Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Let me make something very clear, the operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed was lawful.

“He was the head of al-Qaeda – an organisation that had conducted the attacks of September 11. He admitted his involvement.

“It was justified as an act of national self defence. If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate.”

Reaction in Pakistan
Pakistan's army has said US military personnel in the country will be reduced to the "minimum essential" levels amid anger over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

In its first statement since bin Laden's death, the army admitted "shortcomings in developing intelligence on the presence of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan" and ordered an investigation into the circumstances that led to the mission. In the face of rare domestic criticism, army chiefs said they would review Pakistan's intelligence and military co-operation with the United States if more unilateral attacks are conducted.

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir strongly defended the country's main spy agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) but said military "incompetence" would be investigated.

He said: "Critique of the ISI is not only unwarranted, it cannot be validated. The other part that has surfaced is the incompetence. How is it that Mr Laden was in Abbottabad under the nose of the Pakistan Military Academy and the military and nobody knew about it? This aspect of course is being looked into. If it was an intelligence failure, then the (Pakistani) Prime Minister rightly stated in Paris that it was a global intelligence failure."