The subdued reaction from Pakistan’s most radical groups — at least for now — may reflect the eroded resonance of bin Laden’s message and the disarray of Pakistani militant groups, whose attacks have slowed in recent months, analysts said.
In interviews, members of Pakistani extremist organizations also seemed to express confusion: Some said they did not believe bin Laden had died. More said they did, but that they were still in mourning — and calculating their response.
“Everybody in the organization is in a state of shock,” said one 27-year-old member of a banned militant group. “Nothing will be done in haste.”
Despite the muted response, security officials said it was hardly time to relax. An online posting attributed to al-Qaeda on Friday confirmed bin Laden’s death and vowed retaliation. It also called specifically upon Pakistanis to “rise up and revolt to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them by a clique of traitors and thieves.”
Several of Pakistan’s prominent militant groups, including the Pakistani Taliban and various sectarian organizations, have long-standing ties to al-Qaeda. Intelligence officials said the Pakistani army had pointedly distanced itself from the U.S. raid this week in part to discourage an insurgent backlash.
A senior police official in Lahore, the capital of a province that is the base of several banned jihadist outfits, said authorities expected strikes within two weeks.
“They are wise enough to just hold on,” the police official said. “Then they will respond, once all the security apparatus becomes complacent.”
That is what the groups have warned. The day of the killing, the Pakistani Taliban, which focuses its attacks on the Pakistani state, threatened that it would soon lash out.
A pro-Taliban weekly newspaper, published in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday, asserted that bin Laden’s followers had restricted their attacks to “protect” their leader, but that “now they are free with full revenge.”
“This is the beginning. We will take the revenge from both Pakistan and the United States,” one Taliban fighter said by telephone from North Waziristan, a mountainous border area where a stewpot of militant groups, including al-Qaeda, have bases. On Friday, a suspected CIA drone strike hit North Waziristan, killing 13, Pakistani media reported.