Osama Bin Laden killed by CIA in Pakistan – Obama

Osama bin Laden, the longtime al-Qaeda leader and chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed Sunday by U.S. forces, President Obama announced late Sunday night.

Acting on an intelligence lead that first surfaced last August, Obama said he authorized an operation to kill bin Laden, 53, who was hiding in a compound deep inside Pakistan. The president, in a rare Sunday night address to the nation, said U.S. forces killed bin Laden during a firefight and captured his body.

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Bin Laden’s killing comes nearly a decade after al-Qaeda orchestrated attacks on New York and the Pentagon that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. Obama said Sunday’s development would “bring justice” to bin Laden.

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“His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” he said.

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The president said that no Americans were harmed in the attack and that U.S. forces “took care to avoid civilian casualties.”

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“Today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people,” Obama said. “The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever it is we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

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Obama said the operation took place in Abbottabad, a city of about 100,000 in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 100 miles north of Islamabad. Named for a British military officer who founded it as a military cantonment and summer retreat, it is the headquarters of a brigade of the Pakistan Army’s 2nd Division.

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Bin Laden had long eluded U.S. forces throughout George W. Bush’s presidency, and the former president said Sunday that he congratulated Obama and the military and intelligence personnel who “devoted their lives to this mission.”

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“They have our everlasting gratitude,” Bush said in a statement. “This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”

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Obama said he had instructed Leon Panetta, the CIA chief who last week was nominated to succeed Robert M. Gates as defense secretary, to make the capture and killing of bin Laden the top priority of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

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Obama said that he was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden’s whereabouts in August 2010, but that it took U.S. intelligence officials “many months” to run down the lead. Last week, Obama said he determined that there was enough intelligence to take action and authorized the operation to go after bin Laden.

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Obama’s announcement on Sunday seemed to electrify Washington and indeed the country. Senior congressional leaders issued statements commending the military for the capture.

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“Today, the American people have seen justice,” House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), whose Long Island district lost many in the 2001 attacks, said in a statement. “In 2001, President Bush said, ‘We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.’ President Bush deserves great credit for putting action behind those words. President Obama deserves equal credit for his resolve in this long war against al-Qaeda.”

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Minutes after the news broke, hundreds of people rushed to the White House to celebrate. Many were George Washington University students who were cramming for finals when someone alerted an entire dormitory building after seeing a bulletin on television.

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“I feel like relief,” said freshman Molly Nostrand, 19, who was a fourth-grader in 2001. “After 10 years, it’s a sense of closure in a way.”

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Those who arrived early to the impromptu street celebration sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in roars and chanted “USA!” Many brought American flags and some put together signs.

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“Ding, Dong, Bin Laden is Dead,” one read.

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A group of waved a “Bush-Cheney 2000” election poster.

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“I think it’s an accomplishment for the U S of A,” Richard Indoe, 73, a farmer from Ohio said, shortly after filming a few seconds of the revelry using a flip cellphone. “Too bad this didn’t happen during George W. Bush’s time.”

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As the crowds broke out into songs such as “God Bless America,” some in the crowd took stock of the toll that terrorism has taken on the West over the past decade.

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“It’s very emotional for us,” said British tourist Sara Powell-Davies, 39. “A friend’s sister was killed in the train attacks,” in London in July 2005.

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More to follow…