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In His Birth Country, Reaction To Bin Laden's Killing Is Muted

In Saudi Arabia, reaction has been muted to the killing of Osama bin Laden. The Saudi Press Agency carried a bland statement expressing hope that it would be a "step that supports the international efforts against terrorism."

But Saudi bloggers and tweeters are abuzz. One person tweeting is , former editor-in-chief of the Saudi Newspaper al-Watan. He knew bin Laden and fought alongside other Arabs in Afghanistan during the Soviet era. He last interviewed bin Laden in his home in Khartoum in 1995.

His feelings are mixed about the death.

"I feel relieved for my religion, for the future of the Arab world," he says. "I feel sad for somebody who was a friend."

He says that sadness dates back to when bin Laden "submitted to anger and hate" and turned to terrorism. "It is good, we need al-Qaida off our shoulders so we can pursue a better future for the Arab world."

Khashoggi says Arab youth had already figured that out earlier this year with the uprisings and revolutions that have swept the Arab world seeking change and doing so peacefully. He points out that no protesters carried posters featuring bin Laden or al-Qaida.

He wonders what bin Laden must of have thought about those revolutions, which al-Qaida has been notably absent from.

"It wasn't his style, those youthful revolutions with all sexes, religions and minorities and everybody hand in hand," Khashoggi says. "He had a very narrow mind about Islam and supreme Islam that would overpower everybody else with not much tolerance for others."

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who covers the Arab world for NPR, reported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.