Declaring “justice has been done,” President Obama announced late Sunday that Usama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan, marking the end of the worldwide manhunt that began nearly a decade ago on Sept. 11, 2001.
The president made the stunning announcement within hours of informing congressional leaders. He said bin Laden was killed Sunday, the culmination of years of intelligence gathering. The news drew a large crowd to the front of the White House, as well as in Times Square, as people chanted “USA. USA.”
Obama, in his address to the nation shortly before midnight, thanked the Americans who have toiled in pursuit of bin Laden and applauded those who carried out the successful mission in Pakistan. Describing that mission only briefly, he said its result “is a testament to the greatness of our country.”
“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” Obama said. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.”
The president traced the death of bin Laden to a tip received last August. He said he was briefed at the time on the “possible lead,” and that after months of intelligence work it was determined bin Laden was hiding in a compound “deep” inside Pakistan. Obama said, after determining the intelligence was sound, he authorized the operation to bring him to justice last week.
Sources tell Fox News that Usama Bin Laden, the Saudi Arabian–born leader of Al Qaeda is widely known as the most dangerous terrorist on the planet, has been killed.
He said a “small team” of Americans went after bin Laden in Abbottabad on Sunday. “After a firefight, they killed Usama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” the president said.
Senior administration officials, in a briefing with reporters, afterward said the administration had determined by February that they would pursue the compound in Pakistan, described as a secluded residence on a large plot of land on the outskirts of town. This decision led to a series of national security meetings starting in March to develop a course of action. Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation on April 29, officials said.
No Americans were killed in the mission Sunday. Officials said three adult men other than bin Laden were killed – one was believed to be bin Laden’s son, the others couriers. Two women were also injured, the officials said.
Officials said bin Laden’s body, which is in U.S. custody, will be handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.
In the wake of bin Laden’s death, authorities around the world are being urged to take security precautions. One source said officials are concerned bin Laden’s death could incite violence or terrorist acts against U.S. personnel overseas.
The State Department issued a travel alert for U.S. citizens abroad overnight, citing “the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”
Obama said Americans must continue to be “vigilant.” But he said the death of the architect of the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil should be welcomed around the world.
“Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Obama said. “So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
Sources said the vice president informed congressional leaders late Sunday night that the world’s most wanted man had been killed.
The announcement comes nearly a decade after the 2001 terror attacks which triggered the Afghanistan war and started a tireless hunt for the terrorist mastermind and Al Qaeda leader.
In recent years, that hunt had increasingly led U.S. intelligence across the border and into Pakistan, where Al Qaeda is thought to be concentrated.