WASHINGTON—Osama bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was killed in a firefight with elite American forces in Pakistan today.
Obama administration officials said DNA evidence confirmed the death.
Bin Laden then was quickly buried at sea, an official said, in a stunning finale to a furtive decade on the run.
Long believed to be hiding in caves, bin Laden was tracked down in a costly, custom-built hideout not far from a Pakistani military academy.
The stunning news of his death prompted relief and euphoria outside the White House and around the globe, yet also deepening fears of terrorist reprisals against the United States and its allies.
“Justice has been done,” U.S. President Barack Obama said late last night from the White House in an announcement that seemed sure to lift his own political standing.
The officials said the DNA testing alone offered a “99.9 per ent” certainty that bin Laden was shot dead in a daring U.S. military operation.
Detailed photo analysis by the CIA, confirmation by other people at the raid site, and matching physical features like bin Laden’s height all helped confirmed the identification.
A Pentagon official said a wife of bin Laden identified him by name during the U.S. raid.
One official said there should be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the person killed was bin Laden.
Still, it was unclear if the world would ever get visual proof. Bin Laden’s body was quickly buried at sea, and administration officials were weighing the merit and appropriateness of releasing a photo of bin Laden, who was shot in the head.
As spontaneous celebrations and expressions of relief gave way to questions about precisely what happened and what comes next, U.S. officials warned the campaign against terrorism is not nearly over—and that the threat of retaliation was real.
“The fight continues and we will never waver,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed toay.
Her comments had echoes of former President George W. Bush’s declaration nearly a decade ago, when al-Qaida attacks against America led to war in Afghanistan and changed the way Americans viewed their own safety.
Turning to deliver a direct message to bin Laden’s followers, she vowed: “You cannot wait us out.”
Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The military operation that ended bin Laden’s life took mere minutes, and there were no U.S. casualties.
U.S. Blackhawk helicopters ferried about two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six (a top military counter-terrorism unit) into the compound identified by the CIA as bin Laden’s hideout—and back out again in less than 40 minutes.
Bin Laden was shot in the head, officials said, after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault.
Three adult males also were killed in the 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.
U.S. officials also said one woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant while two other women were injured.
The compound is about a half-mile from the Kakul Military Academy, an army-run institution for top officers and one of several military installations in the bustling, hill-ringed town of around 400,000 people.
Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad always has denied it. And in a statement, the foreign ministry said his death showed the country’s resolve in the battle against terrorism.
The U.S. official who disclosed the burial at sea said it would have been difficult to find a country willing to accept the remains.
Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial.
Bin Laden’s death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States.
Al-Qaida also was blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots—some successful and some foiled.
“We have rid the world of the most infamous terrorist of our time,” CIA director Leon Panetta declared to employees of the agency in a memo this morning.
But he warned that “terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge” the killing of a man deemed uncatchable.
“Bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaida is not,” Panetta said.
Retaliatory attacks against the U.S. and Western targets could come from members of al-Qaida’s core branch in the tribal areas of Pakistan, al-Qaida franchises in other countries, and radicalized individuals in the U.S. with al-Qaida sympathies, according to a U.S. Homeland Security Department intelligence alert issued yesterday and obtained by The Associated Press.
While the intelligence community does not have insight into current al-Qaida plotting, the department believes symbolic, economic, and transportation targets could be at risk, and small arms attacks against other targets can’t be ruled out.