WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday night announced the United States has killed Osama bin Laden, almost a decade after al-Qaida organized the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.
“The United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda,” Obama said in a statement from the White House just after 11:30 p.m. ET.
“Tonight we can say to those families that have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.”
The stunning news of bin Laden’s death comes almost a decade after the al-Qaeda leader masterminded the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington, killing nearly 3,000.
Obama said bin Laden had been killed Sunday by “a small team of Americans” who had tracked the al-Qaeda leader to a compound inside Pakistan. Bin Laden’s death came after a firefight, he added.
“No Americans were harmed,” Obama said, adding that the U.S forces “took custody” of bin Laden’s body.
The U.S. President gave a few tantalizing details of a long operation to locate and kill bin Laden. Obama said he had been “briefed on a possible lead” last August and determined last week “we had enough intelligence to take action.”
He told viewers that, upon taking office in early 2009, he had directed the U.S. military and intelligence communities “to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority” in the U.S. war against al-Qaeda.
Word of bin Laden’s death brought cheers of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A” from a small crowd gathered outside the White House late Sunday night. The crowd also sang an impromptu version of the Star Spangled Banner.
“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our effort to defeat al-Qaeda,” Obama said.
Former U.S. president George W. Bush, who famously said he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive,” said in a statement that Obama had called him earlier Sunday evening to inform him of bin Laden’s death.
“I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence community … They have our everlasting gratitude,” Bush, who was the president on the day of the 9/11 attacks, said. “America has sent an unmistakable message — no matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Obama also delivered a message to the world’s Muslims, saying: “Our war is not against Islam, because bin Laden was not an Islamic leader … His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
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