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Obama Announces Death Of Bin Laden

May 02, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader and America's most wanted man, is dead.

In a late-night announcement from the White House, Obama said the Al-Qaeda founder was killed by U.S. forces inside Pakistan, in a ground operation outside the capital, Islamabad.

Justice had been done, he said.

"The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat Al-Qaeda. Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There's no doubt that Al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad," Obama said.

Bin Laden, who was on top of the U.S. "most wanted" list, was accused of being behind a number of deadly militant attacks, including the suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3,000 people died.

He is also widely believed to have been behind the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the 2000 suicide attack against the "USS Cole" in the Yemeni port of Aden.

$25 Million Bounty

Despite a $25-million bounty on his head, bin Laden evaded the forces of the United States and its allies for almost a decade.

After the announcement of bin Laden's death, thousands of people gathered in New York City at the site of the World Trade Center. More cheering crowds gathered at Times Square.

In Washington, crowds gathered outside the White House chanting "U.S.A., U.S.A." and waving flags.

RFE/RL's correspondent Richard Solash described the scene, saying some people shed tears while others laughed uncontrollably: "There was absolute jubilation. People screaming, cheering, draped in American flags, lighting up cigars. People scaled the trees right in front of the White House."

Obama said he had been briefed last August on a possible lead to bin Laden's whereabouts.

The president said: "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," he added.

A small team of U.S. forces took possession of his body after "a firefight" in Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers north of Islamabad, on May 1.

Pakistani officials said bin Laden's guards opened fire from a building described as a two-storey house just meters from a Pakistani military academy.

One of the helicopters carrying U.S. forces is said to have crashed, but Obama said U.S. forces suffered no casualties during the operation.

Obama said Pakistani security officials had helped "lead us to bin Laden" and he thanked President Asif Ali Zardari for the cooperation.

He also insisted that the United States is not at war with Islam.

"We must also reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. I've made clear, just as [former] President [George W.] Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, he was a mass murderer of Muslims," Obama said.

"Indeed Al-Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries including our own. So, his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."

Bloodied Face

Pakistani television stations broadcast what they described as unconfirmed images of bin Laden's bloodied face. Television also broadcast footage of flames rising from a compound in Bilal, in the suburbs of Abbottabad.

In some of the first reactions to the news, former President George W. Bush described the announcement of bin Laden's death as "a victory for America." In a statement he said "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he hoped the news would comfort those who lost loved ones on 9/11.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said bin Laden's death "will bring great relief" across the world.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated the United States on "a victory for justice."

To many in the West, bin Laden became the embodiment of global terrorism. To others, he was a hero and devout Muslim.

The son of a wealthy Saudi construction family, bin Laden joined the mujahedin in Afghanistan soon after the Soviet invasion. His Arab followers later formed the nucleus for Al-Qaeda.

The United States has put its embassies on alert, warning Americans of Al-Qaeda reprisal attacks.

with agency reports


Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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