Tonight, the news is breaking across global television and online media that the president of the United States will be making a special televised address to announce that Osama bin Laden has been confirmed killed. NBC News’ Chuck Todd is reporting the news began to leak out after Pres. Obama began informing, by telephone, the key leaders in Congress, that he would be making this announcement.
After a 10-year manhunt, and a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was reportedly killed by US forces in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. It had long been rumored bin Laden was seeking shelter inside Pakistan, after fleeing across the border in the fog of combat during the battle at Tora Bora.
There are reportedly celebrations taking place in New York City, where Bin Laden’s most infamous terror attack took nearly 3,000 lives on September 11, 2001. Massive crowds have gathered outside the White House, cheering and celebrating what might now mark the beginning of the end of the nation’s longest war.
At 11:35 pm EDT, Pres. Barack Obama stepped to the podium in the East Room of the White House, to announce that Osama bin Laden had been confirmed killed in an operation in a mansion outside Islamabad. He recounted the tragic history of the September 11, 2001, attacks. He explained that he had ordered his CIA director Leon Panetta to make capturing or killing bin Laden the top priority of the US efforts against al Qaeda.
Last week, Pres. Obama explained, he determined that there was enough information to warrant covert action against a compound in Abadabad, outside Islamabad. Tonight, he said, conditions were right, and he ordered the operation. Highly trained covert operatives raided the compound, resulting in a firefight, in which bin Laden was killed. The operatives then “took custody of his body”, and were able to confirm that he was in fact Osama bin Laden.
“Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed, but … tonight we are reminded that America can do whatever we set our minds to.” He reminded the American viewing public that we can achieve justice and equality, help to spread our values, not owing to our power, but to “who we are, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
UPDATE, 11:48 pm EDT: According to CNN, George W. Bush issued a statement saying he was personally informed by Pres. Obama earlier this evening, that he congratulated the president for the accomplishment and he wanted to remember the military men and women. He said the news makes the message clear: “no matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
UPDATE, 11:54 pm EDT: NBC News is reporting the most likely command in charge of the covert operation to capture or kill bin Laden was JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command. Such operations are often acknowledged after the fact, but the involvement of individuals in covert operations will not be made public.
Reports about the precise location of the strike now suggest it took place in Abbottabad, more than 100 km from Islamabad (by automobile, an estimated 35 miles by air), and roughly 200 km east of Peshawar. Bin Laden’s body was removed from the site of the skirmish, as evidence, to confirm the operation had succeeded and would not need to be repeated.
UPDATE, 12:21 am EDT, Monday, May 2: NBC News reporting Osama bin Laden, two al-Qaeda “couriers”, and one adult son of bin Laden, were shot and killed. One woman who was reportedly used by bin Laden as a human shield was also killed. The compound is being described as shockingly massive and fortified. It was a large compound with a central structure many times larger than any other house in the neighborhood, with 12 to 15-foot walls, at least two fortified outer walls, and heavy security.
UPDATE, 1:08 am EDT, Monday: Live video from the site of the World Trade Center, in lower Manhattan, and from Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, show massive crowds of young people gathering to celebrate a moment in history that many associate with justice, peace, possibly a return to a freer, less fearful way of living.
There are reports at this hour that unknown officials within Pakistan’s government and/or security services had been discovered to be giving tips to al Qaeda targets about imminent attacks, and there is concern about the possibility that the intensely fortified compound where bin Laden was staying may have been somehow provided or given support by some faction within the government or security services. There may now be pressure to find out who may have collaborated with bin Laden, allowing him to seek shelter in Pakistan for what is believed to be much of the last 9 years.