Osama bin Laden, the glowering mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said Sunday.
A small team of Americans killed bin Laden in a firefight at a compound in Pakistan, the president said in a dramatic late-night statement at the White House.
A jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House as word spread of bin Laden’s death after a global manhunt that lasted nearly a decade.
“Justice has been done,” the president said.
Former President George W. Bush, who was in office on the day of the attacks, issued a written statement hailing bin Laden’s death as a momentous achievement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done,” he said.
Few details were immediately available of the operation that resulted in bin Laden’s death, although the president said none of the Americans involved was harmed.
The development comes just months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, orchestrated by bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization, that killed more than 3,000 people.
The attacks set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, and America’s entire intelligence apparatus was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home.
Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 231 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.