By Kent Klein
Twenty-five minutes before midnight on a Sunday night, President Obama made an announcement that the American people had waited almost ten years to hear.
“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-Qaida and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Obama said.
Osama bin Laden has been the world’s most-wanted terrorist since more than 3,000 people were killed in al-Qaida’s attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Mr. Obama said he was briefed last August on a possible lead to bin Laden’s location. He said the terrorist leader had been hiding in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
The president said he authorized a mission last week to “get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.”
Mr. Obama said a small team of Americans Sunday carried out the operation on the compound.
“After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” Obama said.
The president acknowledged that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against the United States, and he warned Americans to remain vigilant.
“I have 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-Qaida has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.”
Mr. Obama said counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead U.S. forces to bin Laden. He said he called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to notify him of bin Laden’s death. The president said Pakistani officials agreed that this was a “good and historic day” for both nations.
Mr. Obama also called former President George W. Bush, who was president on September 11, 2001, and who launched the U.S. war on terror. In a written statement, Mr. Bush called bin Laden’s killing a “momentous achievement” and a “victory for America.” He said “No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Osama bin Laden was born March 10, 1957 to a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, bin Laden joined the Afghan mujahedin Islamic fighters. Several years later, he used his wealth to form his own militia force, later called al-Qaida, Arabic for “the base.”
In 1996, bin Laden declared a holy war against the United States, which he accused of looting the natural resources of Muslim nations and helping Islam’s enemies.
While hiding in Sudan, bin Laden is said to have plotted attacks on the U.S. military in Somalia and Saudi Arabia. He also orchestrated the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Within weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States led a coalition that overthrew Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which had refused to turn bin Laden over to the U.S.
For almost ten years, U.S. soldiers and intelligence officers combed the mountainous area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, trying to find bin Laden.
Shortly before President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed, a jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House, chanting, cheering and singing.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has put its embassies on alert and warned Americans of possible al-Qaida reprisal attacks.