LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, who presided over a statewide tribute after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said Sunday that Americans and "decent people" had reason to cheer over the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
"Welcome to hell, bin Laden," Huckabee said in a statement posted on the website of his political action committee and distributed via Twitter.
President Barack Obama announced Sunday that U.S. servicemen had killed the al-Qaida leader in a targeted operation earlier in the day and had seized the terrorist's body. Huckabee said that while it is "unusual to celebrate a death," a joyful reaction was appropriate.
"Today Americans and decent people the world over cheer the news that madman, murderer and terrorist Osama Bin Laden is dead," said Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister and a potential 2012 candidate for president.
Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., issued a statement calling bin Laden's death "a historic event in the defeat of Al-Qaida" but calling for vigilance in keeping the nation safe.
"Justice has been served for the thousands of families who lost loved ones in these terrorist attacks against America and its people," said Ross, who represents Pine Bluff, one of two Arkansas cities that lost a resident in the 2001 attacks. "I join every U.S. citizen in thanking President Obama, our Armed Forces and various intelligence agencies for the role they played in successfully carrying out this mission."
Nehamon Lyons IV, a Pine Bluff sailor, died at the Pentagon, and Sara Low, an American Airlines stewardess from Batesville, died aboard a jet that crashed into a World Trade Center tower.
Obama, in his address Sunday, told the victims' families, "We have never forgotten your loss."
Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including some when a terrorist-hijacked airplane crashed into a Pennsylvania field. One of the Pennsylvania victims was Tom Burnett, who among others was hailed as a hero for diverting another attack on Washington. Burnett's widow, Deena, lives at Little Rock.
A month after the terror attacks, Huckabee hosted a tribute to the military and others in uniform at a downtown amphitheater, urging the thousands who attended to "Please thank them for what they do for us."
Sunday, Obama approved a military operation that ended with bin Laden's death, and Huckabee said bringing a "monster" to justice should send a signal to others who would harm the U.S.
"Let us all hope that his demise will serve notice to Islamic radicals the world over that the United States will be relentless is tracking down and terminating those who would inflict terror, mayhem and death on any of our citizens," Huckabee wrote.
Rep. Rick Crawford, who represents Batesville, said Sunday was a monumental day.
"Thanks to the recent tactics of the armed services and intelligence community, the mastermind of 9/11 is unable to ever hurt anyone again," Crawford wrote. "Tonight, my prayers go out to the families of the victims of September 11th who were murdered by Osama bin Laden and his evil plot against America."
He also called for vigilance.
Mike Behar, 50, of Henderson, N.C., who was flying to Little Rock from Chicago's O'Hare Airport on Sunday night for business, said the past 10 years had been a nightmare as bin Laden eluded the United States.
"It's been a long time coming," Behar said. "He had something to do with a lot of people dying. I wouldn't want to be him right now ... if he's meeting his maker."
Behar said he didn't know whether it was better to take the terrorist dead or alive.
"I don't know what the right answer is," Behar said.
Behar said he was in New York at the time of the 2001 attacks but hadn't been back.
Associated Press Writer Jeannie Nuss contributed to this report from Chicago.