MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death Sunday at the hands of U.S. forces caught South Floridians by surprise Sunday night, leaving many with questions about possible retaliation, even as elected officials praised the end of the Bin Laden era.
US Representative Ileana Ros Lehtinen (R-Pinecrest) spoke with CBS4’s Natalia Zea at her Pinecrest home shortly after learning of Bin Laden’s death.
US REPRESENTATIVE ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN ON BIN LADEN
“Well, it is a symbolic victory and also a strategic victory as well. We know Osama Bin Laden was no longer the operation leader of Al-Qaeda but he was the mastermind of 9/11 and he was the number one target for all these ten years,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “This is a significant military victory, it has raised our hopes, expectations so people know whenever it appears that everyone is looking the other way, our armed forces are 24/7 on the job keeping us safe. Thank God for them.”
She said Congress was not briefed on the operation leading to Bin Laden’s death, confirming Senior Obama administration officials who safe few people in the US Government, and no representatives of any other country, knew about the operation before it was concluded.
US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Ft. Lauderdale) credited President Obama for keeping US focus on the search for Bin Laden.
“This terrible chapter in American history will never be forgotten, but tonight we can go to sleep knowing that no other innocent life will be taken by this terrorist,” she said in a statement issued early Monday.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of West Miami-Dade called word of Bin Laden’s death an historic moment.
“Just as every American will never forget where we were when America was attacked on 9/11, this moment will forever be remembered by each one of us as the day justice for that tragedy was finally served,” Rubio said.
“While this diabolical terrorist’s death at America’s hands is a moment to celebrate, we must never forget the serious terrorist threats that remain and will demand an enduring vigilance.”
Those continued threats, and the worry that Bin Laden’s death might trigger terrorist reaction, was addressed early Monday morning by senior Obama administration officials speaking on background about the operation leading to Bin Laden’s death. While they said it prudent to always be vigilant against terrorism, they did not express concern about specific threats of retaliation.
In South Florida, officials have identified a number of potential terror targets, including two airports, two seaports, Miami’s MetroRail system, and two power plants, among others.
A spokesperson for Miami International Airport said Sunday night that there had been no increase in the terrorist threat level at the facility, and none of the police agencies contacted by CBS4 News indicated any increased alert status because of Bin Laden’s death.
US Representative Allen West, (R-FL 22), urged people not to let celebration of Bin Laden’s death to distract us.
“Although this is a time of exuberance, rejoicing and healing, America, as well as our allies, must be vigilant and on guard for retaliatory attacks from the extreme Islamic world,” he said in a statement released early Monday morning. “What strongly concerns me is that bin Laden was not found hiding in a remote cave, but in an urban area of Pakistan where the Pakistan Army’s premier training institution operates. This is a war that is no where close to being over.”
Community reaction has already begun. A number of people gathered late Sunday night at Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, a traditional community rallying point, to talk about Bin Laden’s death.
Shalom International, a Jewish organization, said it would gather at Noon Monday at Miami’s Torch of Friendship in remembrance of the 9/11 attacks. The group said it would hand out candy, “just as the Arabs did while dancing in the streets after 9/11.”
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