Details are sketchy as of this hour, but America’s television networks, citing multiple sources, are reporting that U.S. forces have killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and have possession of his body.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation shortly. The administration has not officially confirmed the news, but the president is expected to do so when he speaks from the East Room of the White House.
PRESIDENT NOW SPEAKING, 8:32 PM: President Obama’s speech has begun. He has confirmed the news reports: Osama bin Laden is dead, and the United States is in possession of his body. Bin Laden was killed in a firefight centered around a compound in a suburban region of Pakistan, which had been targeted by a small contingent of U.S. forces. (The President didn’t elaborate on which branch(es) of the military contributed troops to the force).
PRESIDENT REVEALS MORE DETAILS, 8:44 PM: The operation apparently came to fruition after America’s intelligence community began pursuing a lead about bin Laden’s whereabouts last August, the President said. He disclosed that he recently signed off on a plan to make use of the intelligence that was gathered by following up on the lead. The plan was carried out, and it resulted in a firefight.
The battle at the compound was apparently very one-sided, because the President said no Americans were killed, and care was taken to avoid loss of civilian lives. The only lives lost were those of al-Qaeda operatives, including Osama bin Laden himself, and one woman used as a human shield by them.
WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID, 9:25 PM: Here is the relevant, transcribed portion of the president’s address, concerning the operation.
[L]ast August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
MURRAY REACTS, 9:02 PM: Here’s Senator Patty Murray’s statement. Just came in. One of the first official responses from a member of Congress.
The President’s announcement tonight is tremendous news for all Americans and for counterterrorism efforts worldwide.
The superb work of our military and intelligence communities have led to the death of the mastermind of the worst attack in our nation’s history. It is indeed a great moment.
I applaud our troops, intelligence operatives, and the Administration for never wavering in this important goal in the broader war on terrorism.
This is a particularly important day for the thousands of Americans who lost a family member, friend or loved one nearly ten years ago. And all of our thanks go to those who have been lost in our military efforts and to our veterans and their families.
This is indeed a significant moment and one that will continue to propel our efforts to root out terrorists wherever they reside. We must continue to remain vigilant and focused on the protection of the American people.
BACKGROUND FROM THE ADMINISTRATION, 9:44 PM: NPI has just learned much more about the operation from the White House. Here’s some of what we heard on a call with senior administration officials:
- The compound where bin Laden was hiding is located in an area that is “relatively affluent, with lots of retired military,” according to a senior administration official. “It’s also isolated from the natural disasters and terrorist attacks that have afflicted other parts of Pakistan,” the official said.
- The compound was built within the last five years, and the U.S. suspects it may have been built explicitly for the purpose of hiding the al-Qaeda leader. It was extremely well secured, with high walls, barbed wire, multiple gates, and few windows in the buildings.
- The intelligence on this compound has been a closely-guarded secret until this evening. The information was considered incredibly important and was shared with no other country.
- The special team that took out Bin Laden was brought in using helicopters. The administration won’t say (at least for now) which kind of helicopters were used or what mixture of personnel comprised the team.
- Bin Laden’s body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. “This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner,” a senior administration official said.
CANTWELL REACTS, MONDAY MORNING, 10:05 AM: Here is Senator Maria Cantwell’s statement. We received it a few minutes ago.
The long wait from 2001 is over. Osama Bin Laden’s death will be remembered as a major turning point in our efforts to fight his terrorism network. The American people are grateful for the service of all our military and intelligence community.
Today, we remember the lives of those who were lost on September 11, and we give our deepest appreciation to those who defend our freedom every day. The death of Osama Bin Laden is a major step forward in the fight against terrorism, but we must continue our efforts to confront the social and economic conditions that give rise to violent extremism around the world.
By targeting and taking out Osama bin Laden, U.S. special forces have neutralized a mass murderer who directed the slaughter of thousands of innocent people.
Our world will unquestionably safer, happier, and more peaceful without Osama bin Laden in it. It took nearly ten years, but Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice for his many heinous acts.
Mark Twain once wrote, I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure. This aphorism has been growing in popularity on Twitter, and seems to be a fitting response to the news announced by the president.
Osama bin Laden’s death is more than just a mission accomplished. It is an opportunity. It is time for the “war on terror” to be over. We cannot hope to win a war against a noun. We cannot be free if we live in fear.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said:
This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. We are playing into the hands of those who want to take away our freedoms when we voluntarily surrender our civil liberties in the name of security. (Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety).
And we are playing into the hands of those who want to take away our freedoms by occupying lands that do not belong to us.
In the end, America was made safe from Osama bin Laden by a covert raid… what amounted to a police action. The events of today just go to show that the occupations begun by George W. Bush have not resulted in a safer America or a safer world. It is time for those occupations to be ended.
And it is time for us to begin confronting the real threats humanity faces… fear, prejudice, hatred, and bigotry.