Bruce Coulter: Terrorist threats after bin Laden's death

Bruce Coulter

Osama bin Laden is dead. Initial reports were sketchy late Sunday night, with many websites providing only a headline to break the news.

After President Obama’s late-night press conference, the news –– and jubilation –– spread quickly across America.

Despite the late hour, people in Boston gathered at Boston Common, the public park, and in Kenmore Square near Fenway Park, chanting “USA, USA.”

Flowers and notes were left on memorials at the site of the Pentagon crash. And in New York City, family members of the victims of 9/11 gathered at ground zero, feeling some small measure of closure now that the most wanted –– and hated –– man in the world is dead.

Joanna Tzouvelis, a GateHouse Media colleague, watched the events in New York unfold on TV on Sept. 11, as did most Americans. But she had a personal reason for staying glued to the television: her cousin, John Katsimatides, was a corporate bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center.

He was, Joanna wrote in the newspaper on Sept. 10, 2008, “one of 658 Cantor Fitzgerald employees who lost their lives that day.”

Her initial thoughts upon learning of bin Laden’s death?

“Wow, they finally found him.”

Monday was a typical day for Joanna. She still had to get her kids to finish breakfast and prepare lunch for school, so she had little time to reflect on the news.

"Is it really him they got? Now, we're in greater danger. They got him, but there are still others who are plotting another terrorist attack. It's not over," she said.

Joanna attempted to explain to her daughters what bin Laden’s death meant to her –– gently.

“They got the bad man who ordered the airplanes to crash into the building where mommy's cousin worked,” she said.

Nearly a decade later, Joanna said the family still has questions about the fate of her cousin.

“We don't know what happened to him. We will never know. Did he jump? Did he burn? Was it a quick death? A slow, painful death? I try not to think about it,” she said.

The comments Joanna offered may well be valid. Is America in greater danger? Reports from the Middle East say Hamas has condemned the killing of bin Laden. Hardly a surprise.

Al Jazeera’s English-language website reported promises of revenge. One commentator, the site reported, “going by the online name ‘Assad al-Jihad2’ posted on websites a long eulogy for the al-Qaida leader and promised to ‘avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam.’”

Al Jazeera also reported the Pakistani Taliban threatened attacks against government leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan army and the United States.  

"Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target," Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

So America has to ask itself: What’s next? Will a new wave of homegrown terrorists make good on various plots to kill more Americans? Did bin Laden leave behind a “to-do list” in the event of his capture or death at the hands of U.S. forces?

It may seem a bit far-fetched to think bin Laden could strike from beyond the grave. But then again, it was far-fetched to think U.S. planes could be turned into flying bombs in Sept. 11, 2001.

“If cancer could be killed, that would be justice to all the cancer victims and their families,” Joanna said. “Cancer would be gone forever. But, the terrorists, although they are like cancer, if one is killed, there are still many others plotting against America. Will we ever be totally safe again? I know I don't feel safe, especially in big, public places.”

Is America safe? We’ll know soon enough. But for now, justice has been served.

Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Beacon-Villager in Maynard, Mass. He served in the Marine Corps and Army and is a disabled veteran. He may be reached at 978-371-5775 or by email at