Peter Wilson, Europe correspondent From: The Australian May 03, 2011 12:00AM
SECURITY forces across Europe braced last night for a backlash from supporters of Osama bin Laden, with warnings there could be attacks "in the coming days" and that it was "just a question of when and where".
Pakistan and Afghanistan were seen as the most likely scenes of any retaliation, but bin Laden's death came just a week after WikiLeaks documents revealed claims his supporters could unleash a "nuclear hellstorm" in the West if he were killed or captured.
Wikileaks released records of US military interrogations of detainees in the Guantanamo Bay military base in which one senior bin Laden aide, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, claimed a nuclear device had been stolen and hidden in Europe to hit back if bin Laden were captured.
British embassies around the world were ordered to tighten their security yesterday, with Foreign Secretary William Hague ordering a worldwide review of security because of the danger of violent reprisals.
"There may be parts of al-Qa'ida that will try to show they are in business in the coming weeks, as indeed some of them are," Mr Hague told the BBC during a visit to Egypt.
"So I have already this morning asked our embassies to review their security to make sure vigilance is heightened and I think that will have to be our posture for some time to come."
Richard Kemp, a former British army commander in Afghanistan who has written widely on al-Qa'ida, said he did not believe bin Laden's supporters would be able to pull off a "spectacular" on the scale of the 2001 World Trade Centre attacks, but they were likely to attempt smaller assaults.
"They will try and recover, they will undoubtedly try to strike back in some form," Mr Kemp said. "I don't suppose they will manage a major attack, but they will try and strike back in some form in the short term, in retaliation for the death of bin Laden.
"And meanwhile, others will take on his mantle. Ayman al-Zawahri, his No 2, will presumably step up to lead al-Qa'ida now."
A prominent British supporter of bin Laden warned that his killing raised the prospect of an attack like the July 7, 2005, bombings that killed 56 people in London.
Radical preacher Anjem Choudary issued a statement saying that for bin Laden's supporters, his death would "merely act as an incentive".