Osama bin Laden was killed on Sunday afternoon by a team of US Navy seals at a facility outside Islamabad, ending the hunt for the world’s most wanted terrorist responsible for September 11, 2001 attacks killing 3,000 people.
"Justice has been done," said US President Barack Obama in a late Sunday night announcement, announcing the killing. He had minutes before called predecessors George W Bush and Bill Clinton to give them the news first.
Bin Laden was killed with one of his sons, two other men and a woman after a firefight with the US team lasting 40 minutes, said an official, adding, the team carried back bin Laden’s body which will be buried with full Islamic rites.
The operation was carried out early in the morning with the seals going flying in on four helicopters, one of which was ditched by the team after it developed a mechanical failure. No one in the raiding team was injured.
Celebrations broke out in the US, and crowds gathered outside White House – mostly students from nearby George Washington University and tourists – singing the US national anthem and chanting “USA, USA, USA.”
“It’s the greatest moment in the history of the US,” said Congressman Gary Ackerman from New York, as people converged at Ground Zero, cheering, dancing or just quietly relishing the moment.
Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, a terrorist outfit he led, were held responsible not only for 9/11 but also for the bombing US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000.
Pakistani authorities were not told of the raid that was carried out by the US forces in the early hours of Sunday, said the official, adding, only a very small group of people knew of the raid even in the US.
“Last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden,” Obama said in his address. But the information was far from certain, and more work needed to be done.
Finally, last Friday, he was asked for permission to attack the facility, 35 miles north of Islamabad in a posh neighbourhood of Abbottabad, which is home to a large number of retired military officials.
The attack followed years of painstaking intelligence work.