Obama: Bin Laden Is Dead
President Barack Obama announced Sunday night that Osama bin Laden is dead (See full text of speech here).
Bin Laden was killed Sunday by a small team of U.S. operatives after a firefight in a compound in Abbottābad, Pakistan--about 70 miles outside of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. His corpse is in U.S. custody. Bin Laden was 54 years old.
Obama said the killing "marks the most significant achievement to date in our effort to defeat al Qaeda." A fight, the president said, is far from over.
"Justice has been done," Obama said to the families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bin Laden is believed to have orchestrated those attacks, but he's also been linked to a string of other terrorist operations across the world.
"His death does not mark the end of our effort," Obama said. "We must – and we will - remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
CIA Director Leon Panetta, who Obama recently nominated to take over as Secretary of Defense, called members of Congress on Sunday night to explain how bin Laden was killed. Obama said he authorized the "targeted" operation "last week." No Americans were harmed.
Obama said military intelligence officials first received a tip several months ago that bin Laden was in a compound in Pakistan. The tip was from the Pakistan, according to MSNBC.
"It took many months to run this thread to ground," Obama said. He held at least five secret meetings with top officials as the process unfolded. He made the final authorization for the covert mission on Friday "as the world watched the Royal Wedding," CNN described.
Bin Laden's death arrived four months before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which saw hijacked planes implode New York City's World Trade Center, bruise the Pentagon and light up a field in rural Pennsylvania.
The Obama administration had told the CIA to intensify its search for the terrorist leader in recent months.
"Shortly after taking office, I made the capture or killing of Bin Laden the top priority of our war on terror," Obama noted.
U.S. troops are expected to begin a pull-out in July from Afghanistan, where bin Laden rose to fame as leader of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. He led the group from its founding for more than two decades. His role slowly diminished while hiding in Pakistan, experts had said.
The fighting season is expected to begin in Afghanistan in the next couple of weeks. NATO and Taliban forces have alerted civilians to be on high alert and stay away from the worst battlegrounds. The U.S. ousted the al Qaeda-backed Taliban government regime at the end of 2001. But both groups have re-emerged, continuing to threaten the democracy in Afghanistan and the security of the U.S.
In October 2001, President George W. Bush first launched the War on Terror, seeking to capture bin Laden and bring justice for the thousands of victims of numerous acts of terrorism committed by al Qaeda operatives. Bush said in a statement that the killing of bin Laden was a "momentous achievement."
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," Bush said.
Fox News' Geraldo Rivera was among the first to leak the news. CNN's John King and several other reporters confirmed the news ahead of Obama's official announcement as word spread across Facebook and Twitter. Afghan officials confirmed to Al Jazeera that bin Laden is dead. A crowd of hundreds of people gathered outside of the White House to celebrate. Obama spoke at about 8:30 PDT--both unusual for its time, day and last-minute notice to the media. It's unclear what the scene is like in Afganistan, which is about 12 hours ahead of the West Coast.
The U.S. launched multiple drone strikes on Pakistan in April and recently announced it would supply the country with its own set of drone technology.
Bin Laden was born in Saudia Arabia to a biollionaire royal family, which later disinherited him. He considered the U.S. an enemy because of its attacks on the Muslim world. He believed strict Islamic law would bring peace to the Middle East.
American forces came close to killing bin Laden in December 2001, when he was in a cave in Afganistan's mountainous Tora Bora complex.
Bin Laden is said to have been behind the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen.
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