Al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden confirmed killed by US forces in Pakistan
Osama bin Laden in 1998.
[Updated 01:24 AM Eastern]
US officials have confirmed that Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda's top leader, was killed during an early morning raid by US forces in Pakistan today.
President Barack Obama said Osama bin Laden was killed by "a small team of Americans" during a raid on a fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body," Obama said. Bin Laden's body was take to Afghanistan, and was later buried at sea. No US personnel were killed during the operation.
According to CNN, "senior US officials" have stated that the operation was conducted by US Navy SEALs inserted by multiple helicopters, one of which crashed due to mechanical failure. The Associated Press reported that four US helicopters took off from an airbase in northwestern Pakistan, and one took fire during the operation. That helicopter was later destroyed by US troops. ABC News reported that an estimated 20 to 25 SEALs backed by CIA personnel carried out the raid on the $1 million compound.
In addition to bin Laden, four other people, including one of bin Laden's sons and two couriers, were also reported killed in the firefight. A woman was also killed during the raid.
Foreign governments, including Pakistan, were sidelined, according to The Washington Post. A US intelligence official with knowledge of the raid told The Long War Journal that Pakistan, specifically its Inter-Services Intelligence agency, "could not be trusted" with operational details of the raid.
The US zeroed in on bin Laden's location after receiving intelligence in August 2010 that he was "hiding in a compound deep inside Pakistan," Obama said. US intelligence was "staring at the compound for months trying to figure out for sure whether we had enough to go with," a US Intelligence official told The Washington Post.
A key link to bin Laden was a courier who was a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of al Qaeda's attacks on the US on Sept. 11, 2001. The courier, who was not named, was identified four years ago and tracked back to Pakistan two years ago, according to The Washington Post.
The site of bin Laden's death is far from Pakistan's tribal areas, where most analysts have speculated he was hiding. Abbottabad, a settled district in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, is located 30 miles north of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, and about 125 miles east of the Afghan border. The city of Abbottabad, where bin Laden was killed, has more than 100,000 residents and hosts a Pakistani Army division headquarters and a military academy, a hospital, and an airport.
Bin Laden's death is a major blow to al Qaeda. In addition to serving as the terror group's spiritual leader, he played an active role in al Qaeda's operations as well as in its fundraising. Bin Laden was revered not only by al Qaeda's core cadre, but by jihadist groups worldwide.
It is unclear who will take over control of al Qaeda. Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's deputy, has been the public face of al Qaeda for the past several years. Osama's son Sa'ad is also considered to be a possible successor as the emir of al Qaeda; however, it is not yet known if he was killed along with his father in the raid on the compound.