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

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Al-Jazeera/AFP/Getty Images

FILE - Saudi-born alleged terror mastermind Osama bin Laden is seen in this video footage recorded at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan aired by the Qatar-based satelite TV station al-Jazeera October 7, 2001.

In Saudi Arabia there has been no official statements or protests. But a former friend of Osama bin Laden's says he's relieved yet sad about his demise.

In Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden was born some 57 years ago, reaction to his killing has been rather muted.

There's no official statement, nor any protests for or against the killings on the streets. But Saudi bloggers and tweeters are abuzz. One person tweeting is Jamal Khashoggi, 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 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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