Osama bin Laden – the iconic al-Qaeda leader who inspired a global jihad against the United States – was killed by U.S. Special Forces in a fierce firefight in Pakistan. His body was recovered and his identity confirmed, President Barack Obama revealed in a rare, late-night broadcast from the White House just before midnight.
A U.S. official later said Mr. bin Laden had been buried at sea.
“This marks the most significant achievement to date” in the war against terrorism, Mr. Obama said, adding that he hoped the unity that brought Americans together in the wake of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks would be rekindled.
"On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done," he said.
The strike ends a decade-long hunt for the Saudi-born fugitive but the killing of Mr. bin Laden may also serve to enflame the extremist Islamic jihad rather than signal a decisive victory for Mr. Obama who vowed to target the architect of the Sept 11, 2001, hijackings that destroyed New York’s twin towers and damaged the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 people.
A crowd of hundreds gathered outside the White House to celebrate, chanting, “USA, USA.” Crowds also gathered elsewhere in the country and around the world.
Mr. Obama gave few details of the raid but said that the suspected location of the al-Qaeda leader first emerged last August. Once it was confirmed, only days ago, that Mr. bin Laden was in a compound inside Pakistan, Mr. Obama ordered the Special Forces attack.
Last night, in a televised address to Americans and the world, Mr. Obama said no Americans were hurt during an intense fire fight in Abbottabad, about 116 kilometres northwest of Islamabad, during which the al-Qaeda leader and others were killed. They were apparently airlifted out – with Mr. bin Laden’s body – by helicopters.
“I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Mr. Obama said.
“Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. … After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
After Mr. bin Laden was killed, senior administration officials said the body would be handled according to Islamic practice and tradition. That practice calls for the body to be buried within 24 hours, the official said. Finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world's most wanted terrorist would have been difficult, the official said. So the U.S. decided to bury him at sea. The official, who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters, did not immediately say where that occurred.
Esham ul Haq, 30, a resident of Abbottabad, said he heard explosions and gunfire around 12:45 a.m. local time (PST) and the noises continued until about 2 a.m., followed by silence. Mr. Haq said he lives about three km. away from a residential area of the city known as Bilal Town, which appeared to be the focus of the battle.
While it was difficult to make out what was happening in the darkness, Mr. Haq said he counted at least three helicopters overhead.
"I think one of them was shot down, maybe from shooting below," Mr. Haq said.
George W. Bush, president during 9/11, said the killing was a “momentous achievement.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the death brings justice to Canadians killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and their families: "Canada receives the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden with sober satisfaction."
The impact of Mr. bin Laden’s demise could ripple across the region, where his al-Qaeda network still maintains training camps that produce some of the suicide bombers and fighters who continue to attack Western forces in Afghanistan.
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