Abbottabad, Pakistan (AP) – Four helicopters swooped in early Monday and killed Osama bin Laden in a fiery American raid on his fortress-like compound in a Pakistani town that is home to three army regiments. His location raised pointed questions of whether Pakistani authorities knew the whereabouts of the world’s most wanted man.
The al-Qaida chief was living in a house in the town of Abbottabad that a U.S. official said was “custom built to hide someone of significance.” Abbottabad is around 60 miles from the capital Islamabad, far from the remote mountain caves along the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal border where most intelligence assessments had put bin Laden in recent years.
The house was close to the Kakul Military Academy, an army-run institution where top officers train and one of several military institutions in the town.
An American administration official said the compound was built in 2005 at the end of a narrow dirt road with “extraordinary” security measures. He said it had 12 to 18-feet walls topped with barbed wire with two security gates and no telephone or Internet service connected to it.
A Pakistan intelligence official said the property where bin Laden was staying was 3,000 square feet.
Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan’s security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this. Ties between the United States and Pakistan have hit a low point in recent months over the future of Afghanistan, and any hint of possible Pakistani collusion with bin Laden could hit them hard even amid the jubilation of getting American’s No. 1 enemy.
One Pakistani official said the choppers took off from a Pakistani air base, suggesting some cooperation in the raid. President Barack Obama said Pakistan had provided some information leading to the raid, did not thank the country in his statement on bin Laden’s death.
Pakistan’s intelligence agency and the CIA have cooperated in joint raids before against al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan on several occasions since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But U.S. and Pakistani officials indicated that this mission was too important to let anyone know more than a few minutes in advance.
Pakistan’s foreign office hailed the death as a breakthrough in the international campaign against militancy, and noted al-Qaida “had declared war on Pakistan” and killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and security officers.
It stressed that the operation to kill bin Laden was an American one, and did not mention any concerns that Pakistani officials may have been protecting bin Laden in some way. Domestically, the government may yet face criticism by political opponents and Islamist for allowing U.S. forces to kill bin Laden on its soil.
Pakistani officials said a son of bin Laden and three other people were killed. Other unidentified males were taken by helicopter away from the scene, while four children and two women were arrested and left in an ambulance, the official said.
A witness and a Pakistani official said bin Laden’s guards opened fire from the roof of the compound in the small northwestern town of Abbottabad, and one of the choppers crashed. However U.S. officials said no Americans were hurt in the operation. The sound of at least two explosions rocked Abbottabad as the fighting raged.
It was not known how long bin Laden had been in Abbottabad, which is less than half a days drive from the border region with Afghanistan.
Locals said large Landcruisers and other expensive cars were seen driving into the compound, which is in a regular middle-class neighborhood of dirt covered, litter-strewn roads and small shops. Cabbage and other vegetables are planted in empty plots in the neighborhood.
Salman Riaz, a film actor, said that five months ago he and a crew tried to do some filming next to the house, but were told to stop by two men who came out.
“They told me that this is haram (forbidden in Islam),” he said.
Abbottabad resident Mohammad Haroon Rasheed said the raid happened about 1:15 a.m. local time.
“I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast,” he said. “In the morning when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field.”
Qasim Khan, 18, who lives in a house just across the compound, said he saw two Pakistani men going in and coming out of the house often in the past several years. One of them was relatively a fat man with a beard, he said.
“I never saw anybody else with the two men but, some kids sometime would accompany them. I never saw any foreigner.”
Relations between Pakistan’s main intelligence agency and the CIA had been very strained in recent months. A Pakistani official has said that joint operations had been stopped as a result, and that the agency was demanding the Americans cut down on drone strikes in the border area.
In late January, a senior Indonesian al-Qaida operative, Umar Patek, was arrested at another location in Abbottabad.
News of his arrest only broke in late March. A Pakistani intelligence official said its officers were led to the house where Patek was staying after they arrested an al-Qaida facilitator, Tahir Shahzad, who worked at the post office there.
(CNSNews.com) – Almost a decade after terrorists under his command carried out the deadliest terror attack in history, U.S. forces have killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in an operation in Pakistan.
President Obama announced the news in an abruptly-called televised statement shortly after 11.30 PM eastern time Sunday.
Obama said he had told CIA Director Leon Panetta shortly after taking office to prioritize the killing or capturing of the terrorist leader.
Following a lead last August on bin Laden’s location at a compound deep inside Pakistan, “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, the president said, “a small team of Americans” had moved on the compound and, after a firefight, bin Laden’s body had been recovered. No Americans had been harmed in the operation.
A fugitive since well before the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the United States, the Saudi Arabian-born millionaire has eluded capture over the past 10 years, suspected to have been holed up somewhere in the vicinity of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Abbottabad, the location Obama gave for the operation, is a small city about 100 kilometers north-east of Islamabad.
Bin Laden’s eventual discovery well inside Pakistani territory is likely to fuel fresh criticism in some quarters of that country’s stance in the war against Islamist terror.
However, Obama said Pakistani security forces’ cooperation had played a part.
“Over the years, I have repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done,” he said.
“But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
“Tonight, I called President [Asif Ali] Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.”
‘The fight against terror goes on’
Bin Laden, of Yemeni extract, was a veteran of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union.
Although most notorious for the 9/11 attacks, he was already by that time wanted in the U.S. for masterminding the deadly bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in 1998, which cost more than 220 lives.
That same year he established the International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders, one of whose primary aim was to expel the U.S. “infidels” from the Arabian peninsula.
Obama reiterated that the U.S. was not at war “against Islam, because bin Laden was not a Muslim leader.”
“He was a mass murderer of Muslims. 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.”
President George W. Bush issued a statement immediately after Obama’s announcement, saying that the president had called him earlier to tell him the news.
“I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission,” he said. “They have our everlasting gratitude. 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.”
Good evening. Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory. Hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky, the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground, black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon, the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet, we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world, the empty seat at the dinner table, children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father, parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11th, 2001 in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.
On that day, no matter where we came from, what god we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocence in our country and around the globe.
And so we went to war against al-Qaeda, to protect our citizens, our friends and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.
In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given bin Laden and al-Qaeda safe haven and support.
And around the globe, we’ve worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al-Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet, Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world. And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al-Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his network.
Then last 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 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.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al-Qaeda’s leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. 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. As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam.
I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam, because bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. 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.
Over the years, I have repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.
After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as commander-in-chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet, as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.
And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they’re a part of the generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things, not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
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