Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday in a firefight with US forces in Pakistan and his body was recovered, President Barack Obama says. “Justice has been done,” Obama said in a dramatic, late-night White House speech announcing the death of the elusive mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the New York and Washington.
Obama said US forces led the operation that killed bin Laden. No Americans were killed in the operation and they took care to avoid civilian casualties, he said. “The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of men, women and children,” Obama said.
It is a major accomplishment for Obama and his national security team, after many Americans had given up hope of ever finding bin Laden. A crowd gathered outside the White House to celebrate, chanting, “USA, USA.”
Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, had repeatedly vowed to bring bin Laden to justice “dead or alive” for the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3000 people, but never did before leaving office in early 2009.
US officials said that after searching in vain for the al Qaeda leader since he disappeared in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Saudi-born extremist was killed in the Pakistani town of Abbotabad and his body recovered. Having the body may help convince any doubters that bin Laden is really dead.
He had been the subject of a search since he eluded US soldiers and Afghan militia forces in a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan in 2001. The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan. While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.
Besides September 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks — including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen.