By Adam S. Levy
Radar Staff Writer
Osama bin Laden has been killed by U.S. Special Services, President Barack Obama said Sunday night from the White House, adding that “justice has been done.”
“His death does not mark the end of our effort,” the president said. “There’s no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant.”
The 54-year-old bin Laden — the mastermind of the al Qaeda terrorist network, responsible for the 9/11 attacks that cost more than 3,000 lives — was fatally shot in the head in a mansion in Pakistan, CNN reported.
“No Americans were harmed” in the action that took down bin Laden, the president said, adding he’d personally ordered the operation be carried out.
At the White House, the president met with top officials at around at 2:00 pm ET to finalize plans. He was told that bin Laden was identified at 3:50 pm, and at 7:01 pm that there was a “high probability” the terrorist had been killed.
Upon the president’s announcement, the masses gathered in celebration at landmarks such as the White House and Ground Zero in New York, the epicenter of the 9/11 attacks nearly 10 years ago.
“The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” ex-U.S. President George W. Bush, who was the president during the 9/11 attacks, said in a statement.
Here’s how bin Laden’s capture went down:
After CIA honed in on bin Laden’s whereabouts early Monday in Pakistan — around Sunday afternoon in the states — four helicopters containing Navy SEAL Team Six troops, an elite counter-terrorism unit, stormed the hideout, an unnamed U.S. official told the AP.
Upon touching down, the troops faced a 40-minute firefight from bin Laden and others in the compound; bin Laden was fatally shot in the head in the ensuing battle. A woman (who was being used as a shield, CNN reported) and three men, including one of bin Laden’s sons, were also killed in the firefight. Two women were reported injured.
Mohammad Haroon Rasheed, a witness near the area of bin Laden’s demise, described the exchange.
“I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast,” the witness said. “In the morning, when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field.”
Bin Laden’s hideout was located about 100 yards from a Pakistani military academy, according to the AP. The area was estimated to be about a 12-hour drive to the Afghanistan border, where bin Laden was thought to have been hiding.
Upon the end of the firefight, the SEALS carried bin Laden’s corpse onto one of the helicopters and departed the area.
Bin Laden was subsequently buried at an unnamed location at sea, the official said, noting that his burial was conducted via Islamic practice.
An unnamed U.S. official warned there could be retaliation in the U.S. by terrorists, in the wake of bin Laden’s death.
“In the wake of this operation there may be a heightened threat to the homeland and to U.S. systems and facilities abroad,” the official said. “Al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may try to respond violently to avenge Bin Laden’s death and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the United States.
“But the United States is taking every possible precaution to protect Americans here at home and overseas.”
On Monday, during a ceremony at the White House, the president said it was “a good day for America. “Today, we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” the president said.
No U.S. personnel were killed or injured in the raid.