, President Obama said late Sunday in an announcement that surprised the world.Osama met his end 10 years after the 9-11 attacks in a firefight with a small team of U.S. forces that launched a daring raid on the compound where he was holed up with some trusted advisers. He was hiding only 35 miles from Pakistan’s capital Islamabad.
“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda,” the president said in a dramatic White House announcement made shortly before midnight. An unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press Monday that bin Laden was buried at sea.
, waving American flags. At the Mets-Phillies game fans began chanting “USA, USA” when word began showing up on cell phones.
Bin Laden’s death was hailed as an historic success in America’s war on terror, but al-Qaeda has proved resilient and it is not clear what role in the organnization bin Laden played in recent years.
“It’s not going to mean the end of the movement because there are still those feeding off the anger,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “They will take up arms. This movement has grown beyond this man. ”
Bin Laden’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remains at large. He could assume bin Laden’s position at the head of al-Qaeda.
The United States has put embassies around the world on alert in the event terrorists attempt retaliation. Administration officials say they haven’t received specific threats but they are concerned about retaliatory acts.
“His death does not mark the end of our effort,” Obama said. “There’s no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us.”
Sunday’s raid was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, according to senior administration officials who asked not to be named. Intelligence officials secured a major intelligence breakthrough about four years ago when they learned the name of a trusted courier believed to be living with Osama, according to senior administration officials who asked not to be named.
Two years ago intelligence officials learned the courier was living in an elaborate compound somewhere. In August they pinpointed its location outside Pakistan’s capital.
It was a massive compound that overshadowed other homes in the community, an affluent neighborhood popular among retired military officers.
The compound was ringed by walls between 12 and 18feet high and topped with concertina wire. Access was tightly controlled by security gates.
The secret operation was conducted by U.S. forces without the knowledge of any other country. The U.S. government has always maintained the right to unilaterally go after bin Laden if he was located.
In addition to bin Laden, two couriers and bin Laden’s son were killed in the raid, which lasted no more than 40 minutes. No Americans were hurt in the raid.
One helicopter experienced mechanical difficulties and the team destroyed it before leaving so as not to let it fall into hostile hands.
Former president George W. Bush, who was in office on the day of the attacks, hailed the news. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Victims of the 9-11 attack were processing the news Sunday night along with millions of other Americans.
“It means a lot,” said Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy LaRocque was aboard American Airlines flight 11. Lemack, who was sobbing at the news, said she was contacted by the White House about half an hour before Obama spoke and told to watch. No one told her the subject.
She was with her father and sister, celebrating her sister’s birthday.
“I just want to make sure we focus on the people he murdered,” she said. “I don’t want this day to be about him.”
Crowther of Nyack, N.Y., whose 24-year-old son Welles Crowther was killed at the World Trade Center, had fallen asleep on the couch after a long day of caring for grandchildren. She awoke suddenly to see the news on television, and went to find her husband, who asked: “Why are you crying?” I said, “Osama bin Laden’s dead!”
“I’m so overwhelmed,” she said. “What a relief.”
Obama said the killing or capture of bin Laden was the top priority of the war on terrorism, and thanked the “tireless” work of the U.S. military and counterterrorist professionals in getting him.
Bin Laden, 54, was a member of a wealthy Saudi family who rose to prominence in the worldwide Islamist movement after helping to create al-Qaeda, the Muslim terror group devoted to a worldwide Islamic theocracy. He fought in Afghanistan with Muslim Mujahideen against the former Soviet Union before turning his sites on his former home of Saudi Arabia and the west.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists under al-Qaeda hijacked three airliners in the United States and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers in New York. A fourth jet crashed in Shanksville, Pa., when passengers attacked the cockpit before it reached its destination. Nearly 3,000 people were killed. All nineteen hijackers were killed.
Bin Laden took credit for the attack three years later.
He escaped the invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S. coalition in 2001 and thereafter would surface periodically to issue statements against the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Al-Qaeda has remained one of the most resilient terror organizations in the world. Smaller al-Qaeda affiliated organizations have emerged in Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere. These organizations are believed to be only loosely tied to al-Qaeda