Bin Laden killed in U.S. raid
Americans celebrate al-Qaida leader's death
Monday, May 2, 2011 03:09 AM
From wire reports
Olivier Douliery | Abaca Press
People celebrate outside the White House after President Barack Obama announced that the United States has the body of Osama bin Laden.
WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that killed thousands of Americans, was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said last night.
A small team of Americans carried out the attack and took custody of bin Laden's remains, the president said in a dramatic statement at the White House.
Four helicopters launched the attack in the Bilal area of Abbottabad, about 35 miles north of Islamabad, said a Pakistani intelligence official. One of the helicopters crashed after it apparently was hit by fire from the ground, the official said. He gave no word on casualties.
He said the helicopters took off from a Pakistani air base in the north of the country.
Women and children were taken into custody during the raid, he said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
Obama said months of intelligence work had established that bin Laden was living. Bin Laden was killed after a firefight, and the troops took custody of his body.
"Justice has been done," the president said.
Joyous at the release of a decade's frustration, Americans streamed to the site of the World Trade Center, the gates of the White House and smaller but no less jubilant gatherings across the nation to celebrate bin Laden's death - cheering, waving flags and belting the national anthem.
Ground zero, more familiar these past 10 years for bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and solemn speeches and arguments over what to build to honor the Sept. 11 dead, became, for the first time, a place of revelry.
"We've been waiting a long time for this day," Lisa Ramaci, a New Yorker whose husband was a freelance journalist killed in the Iraq war, said early today. "I think it's a relief for New York tonight just in the sense that we had this 10 years of frustration just building and building, wanting this guy dead, and now he is, and you can see how happy people are."
She was holding a flag and wearing a T-shirt depicting the twin towers and, in crosshairs, bin Laden. Nearby, a man held up a cardboard sign that said, "Obama 1, Osama 0."
Uptown in Times Square, dozens stood together on a clear spring night and broke into applause when a New York Fire Department SUV drove by, flashed its lights and sounded its siren. A man held an American flag, and others sang The Star-Spangled Banner.
In Washington, a crowd filled the street in front of the White House and spilled into Lafayette Park.
"It's not over, but it's one battle that's been won, and it's a big one," said Marlene English, who lives in Arlington, Va., and lobbies on defense issues. She said she has baked thousands of cookies to send to friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years and that she was at the White House because they couldn't be.
The celebrations began to come together late last night, after Americans began hearing about the death of bin Laden from bulletins on television, texts and calls from family and friends and posts on social networking sites.
When news of the president's announcement began to filter across the country, the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies in the middle of a game in Philadelphia, and chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" began in the top of the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Fans could be seen all over the stadium checking their phones and sharing the news.
A senior administration official said Obama gave the final order for U.S. officials to go after bin Laden on Friday. The official added that a small team found their quarry hiding in a large home in an affluent suburb about 35 miles north of Islamabad. The raid occurred in the early-morning hours yesterday.
Based on statements given by U.S. detainees, intelligence officials have known for years that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaida courier in particular and they believed he might be living with him in hiding. In November, intelligence officials found out where he was living in a huge fortified compound surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet, topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and no phone or Internet running into the house.
Intelligence officials believed the $1 million home was custom-built to harbor a major terrorist.
Three adult males were also killed in yesterday's raid, including one of bin Laden's sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden's sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida.
The president said a possible lead to bin Laden's whereabouts emerged last August, but took "many months" to run down.
He determined last week that there was enough intelligence to take action. Yesterday's targeted operation went down without harm to Americans and without civilian casualty, he said.
Officials said the U.S. would ensure that bin Laden's body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition. One senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration is considering burying bin Laden's body at sea, to prevent the creation of a place of homage to the al-Qaida leader.
"We don't want a bunch of people going to the shrine forever," the official said.
Obama spoke with former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton last night to inform them of the developments.
The fate of Ayman al-Zawahri, the al-Qaida second in command, was unclear.
The death of bin Laden is a defining moment in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. What remains to be seen is whether the death of the leader of al-Qaida galvanizes his followers by turning him into a martyr, or whether it serves as a turning of the page in the war in Afghanistan and gives further impetus to the Obama administration to bring U.S. troops home.
Bin Laden was able to elude capture by hiding out in the mountains of Afghanistan and elsewhere. He initially escaped from Tora Bora in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan after a U.S. invasion routed the Taliban, his protectors. Since then, he issued some 30 messages, in audio, video or electronic text, sometimes taunting, sometimes gloating, sometimes urging new terrorist attacks. Intelligence officials believe the messages were passed from hand to hand repeatedly to obscure any trail back to his hiding place.
Bush, who was in office on the day of the attack, issued a written statement hailing bin Laden's death: "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
The development comes just months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept.11 attack on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, orchestrated by bin Laden's al-Qaida organization, that killed almost 3,000 people.
"The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam," Obama said. "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
Obama said the Pakistani government had cooperated with the United States to make the operation possible.
The 9/11 attack set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and America's entire intelligence apparatus was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home