Osama bin Laden is dead, reports CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and several other news agencies. The U.S. government has the Al-Qaeda leader's body, which was recovered in a mansion outside of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
President Obama, in an address to the country, said he ordered the attack on the compound last week on a lead that dated back to August. No Americans were harmed during the attack which was carried out today. After a firefight, bin Laden was killed by U.S. agents who flew in on helicopters. Obama said it's important to note that Pakistani intelligence officials aided the U.S. "Justice has been done... May God bless the United States of America," said the president. Stay with us for updates throughout the night.
3:10 a.m. Headline News reports that bin Laden's body has already been buried at sea, a fact that could fuel speculation by conspiracy theorists demanding physical evidence of the killed terrorist. Still, with Reuters reporting that the U.S. is currently conducting DNA tests on bin Laden, it would seem that some physical remains of bin Laden's body are still in the U.S. government's possession.
2:35 a.m. The U.S. is conducting DNA tests on bin Laden's body and is using facial recognition techniques, reports Reuters.
Results of the DNA tests should be available in the next few days, the official told Reuters.
The strike force was on the ground for less than 40 minutes and the operation was watched real-time by CIA Director Leon Panetta and other intelligence officials in a conference room at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the official said.
"When word came in that the operation was a success, CIA officials in the conference room had a rather large applause," the official said.
1:50 a.m. ABC News has more details on the attack, which was carried out by Navy Seals:
According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters swept into the compound at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy Seals under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, killed Bin Laden and all those with him.
Two Bin Laden couriers were killed, as was one of Osama Bin Laden's son, as was a woman reportedly used as a shield by one of the men. Other women and children were present in the compound, according to Pakistani officials, but were not harmed. U.S. officials said that Bin Laden himself did fire his weapon during the fight.
One of the U.S. helicopters was damaged but not destroyed during the operation, and U.S. forces elected to destroy it themselves with explosives.
The report also has more details on the "multimillion dollar" mansion bin Laden was found in. It had seven-foot tall walls and was eight times larges than neighboring houses. It had no phone or television service and the occupants burned their trash. The U.S. government is "ensuring [bin Laden's body] is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. It's something we take seriously and therefore it's being handled in an appropriate manner."
1:22 a.m. CNN reports that bin Laden was shot in the head
1:11 a.m. In photos, Americans gather to mark bin Laden's death.
12:30 a.m. The mansion where bin Laden was killed, in Abbottabad, Pakistan (about 40 miles from Islamabad) has already been mapped on Google Maps (we can't confirm its accuracy):
12:27 a.m. Here's the transcript of President Obama's speech reprinted below at the 11:35 p.m. timestamp.
12:23 a.m. CNN reports that the operation was carried out by helicopters that entered Pakistan from Afghanistan.
12:19 a.m. Mike Huckabee issues a strongly-worded statement:
It has taken a long time for this monster to be brought to justice. Welcome to hell, bin Laden. Let us all hope that his demise will serve notice to Islamic radicals the world over that the United States will be relentless is tracking down and terminating those who would inflict terror, mayhem and death on any of our citizens."
11:50 p.m. A jubilant crowd has gathered outside the White House singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" and "God Bless America." A Getty photographer is on the scene:
11:45 p.m. A large crowd has also gathered outside of the former site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. "Sirens are blaring and clapping and cheers are erupting," tweets Lexi Mainland of the New York Times. "At ground zero, candles being passed out. Chants of 'USA!' ...Generally, a sense of people not sure what to do yet."
Former President George W. Bush has issued a statement:
Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001.
I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude.
This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.
11: 40 p.m. ET President says he ordered the attack on the compound last week, on a lead that dates back to August. No Americans were harmed during the attack which happened today. After a firefight bin Laden was killed and U.S. agents recovered the body. He says it's important to note that Pakistani intelligence officials helped the U.S. learn of bin Laden's location. "Justice has been done... May God bless the United States of America."
11:35 p.m. ET President Obama speaks:
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, 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’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory -- hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda -- an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And 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.
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
Dean Schabner at ABC News adds context. "His death brings to an end a tumultuous life that saw bin Laden go from being the carefree son of a Saudi billionaire, to terrorist leader and the most wanted man in the world," he writes. "The development capped a manhunt of more than a decade for the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001," reports The Wall Street Journal, "attacks that left 3,000 people dead and dramatically altered U.S. foreign policy and the nation's sense of security."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.