Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan

washingtonpost - Osama bin Laden, the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader and chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed by U.S. forces Sunday in what officials described as a surgical raid on his luxury hideout in Pakistan.

In a rare Sunday night address from the East Room of the White House, President Obama said a small team of U.S. personnel attacked a compound Sunday in Pakistan’s Abbottabad Valley, where bin Laden had been hiding since at least last summer. During a firefight, U.S. team killed bin Laden, 54, and took custody of his body in what Obama called “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda.”
The killing of the terrorism mastermind who had eluded U.S. forces for nearly a decade drew a spontaneous, cheering crowd outside the White House gates and at New York’s ground zero, the site of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies,” a somber Obama said in his nine-minute statement that aired live on television worldwide. “We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”
Bin Laden’s killing will provide a clear moment of victory for Obama at a time of deep political turmoil overseas that is upending long-standing U.S. policy in much of the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East.
It also comes nearly 10 years after bin Laden orchestrated the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, when al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked three passenger jets and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and crashed a fourth jet in rural Shanksville, Pa.
“Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people,” Obama said. “The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever it is we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

U.S. forces flew to bin Laden’s hideout in helicopters. Bin Laden was shot in the head after he and his guards resisted the U.S. attackers, the Associated Press reported. U.S. personnel identified him by facial recognition.
Obama said neither Americans nor civilians were harmed in the operation. Although three adult males were also killed in the raid — two were bin Laden’s couriers and a third was his adult son — according to a senior administration official.
Several women and children were at the compound. One woman was killed when she was “used as a shield by a male combatant” and two others were injured, the official said.
During the raid, which lasted less than minutes, one U.S. helicopter was lost because of mechanical failure. “The aircraft was destroyed by the crew, and the assault force and crew members boarded the remaining aircraft to exit the compound,” the official said. “All non-combatants were moved safely away from the compound before the detonation.”
U.S. officials said they would ensure bin Laden’s body would be handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.
Shortly after 3 a.m. Monday, the Associated Press and CNN, each citing a senior administration official, reported that bin Laden’s body had been buried at sea. The administration wanted to prevent the creation of a shrine to him, a senior U.S. official said. “We don’t want a bunch of people going to the shrine forever,” the official said.
U.S. government facilities around the world were on heightened alert overnight, while the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert late Sunday warning of “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”
Years in the making
The secret operation that culminated with bin Laden’s killing was many years in the making. For most of the past decade, bin Laden was thought to be hiding in Pakistan, but American intelligence had lost his trail until picking up fresh intelligence of his possible whereabouts last August.
After months of studying intelligence and reviewing operational plans, Obama gave the order on Friday morning for the action that ended in bin Laden’s death. The operation took place in Abbottabad, a city of about 100,000 in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 60 miles north of Islamabad. Named for a British military officer who founded it as a military cantonment and summer retreat, it is the headquarters of a brigade of the Pakistan army’s 2nd Division.
A Special Operations team conducted the mission, based on CIA intelligence, some of which was obtained from detainees in U.S. custody, according to senior U.S. officials who detailed the operation under the condition of anonymity.
“We’ve been staring at the compound for months trying to figure out for sure whether we had enough to go with,” one official said. Operatives have “been working this target for years, years, years. They finally found the guy who led to the guy who led to the guy who led to the guy, and this is it.”
Beginning in September, the CIA began to work with Obama on a set of intelligence assessments, which led him to believe that it was possible that bin Laden might be located at the compound in Pakistan.
By mid-February, Obama determined that there was a sound intelligence basis for pursuing this and developing courses of action in case it proved correct. A month later, he began holding National Security Council meetings, which totaled five by the end of March.
On April 29, shortly before flying to Alabama to visit tornado-ravaged communities, Obama gathered senior officials in the Diplomatic Room and made the decision at 8:20 a.m. to undertake the operation.
National security adviser Thomas E. Donilon prepared the formal orders and convened senior national security officials that afternoon to plan for the operation. The United States did not share any intelligence with foreign governments, including Pakistan’s, and only a “very small number” of people within the U.S. government knew about it, one official said.

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