Osama bin Laden: Britain reacts with caution


Egyptian Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, right, head of the Egyptian Armed Forces Supreme Council, meets with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Cairo on May 2, 2011


Khaled Desouki

LONDON — It was the deepest part of the night here when U.S. President Barack Obama made his dramatic announcement.

British Prime Minister David Cameron's office in Downing Street released an immediate statement, while their man woke up and got ready to face the nation. When he had got dressed he told the cameras: "This news will be welcomed right across our country." But he added a note of caution. "Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead."

Cameron congratulated Obama and finished on a sober note, "Of course, nothing will bring back those loved ones that families have lost to terror. But at least they know the man who was responsible for these appalling acts is no more."

By chance, British Foreign Secretary William Hague is in Cairo and was photgrpahed waking through Tahrir Square. Hague echoed Cameron's caution and reminded people that Al Qaeda is a "franchise" operation, with many fragmented groups allied under its umbrella. "This is not the end of being vigilant against Al Qaeda or affiliated groups."

Former British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, said the killing of bin Laden would send a message to other terrorist groups planning major operations against the U.S. "If you do something like this. They will never give up the chase, they will find you and they will kill you."

The news of bin Laden's death broke after most British newspapers had printed their final editions so the tabloid headline writers missed out on practicing their craft.

As always when news of this magnitude breaks financial markets respond, although today's response was muted because it is a bank holiday in Britain. More foreign currency is traded in London than anywhere else in the world. Nevertheless the dollar, which had been taking a battering in recent weeks, re-gained strength in other markets. Oil is down. Safe haven investments like gold and silver have all lost ground. The question is whether U.S. Treasury bonds — also regarded as a safe instrument — will begin to lose value now that the world is rid of its number 1 bogeyman.

Speaking to the BBC, David Buick, of BGC Partners, a successor company to Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm that occupied the 101st to 105th floors of 1 World Trade Center said: "This is a momentous day for us because we lost 658 people. Our associated company Eurobrokers had 64 people killed. In total there were 63 Brits working for us that day. Justice has been done and has been seen to be done." Buick warned his fellow financial traders to react to the news with caution. "Al-Qaeda is still there. It's a culture and an ideology and it won't go away because the main man is gone."