Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States is dead and the U.S. had recovered his body, U.S. President Barack Obama said from Washington late Sunday.
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"Justice has been made," Obama said in a heartfelt address from the White House, as he remembered the close to 3,000 people victims of the 2001 attacks.
The United States first discovered a lead on bin Laden's whereabouts in August 2010, and Obama recounted his meeting with CIA head Leon Panetta, in which he said the capture of the al-Qaida leader was to be a top priority.
Obama said that he and his national security team had met tirelessly for months, until last week when there was enough intelligence to take action.
The U.S. president authorized the operation on the compound where bin Laden was hiding. No civilians or Americans were harmed in the strike, the president said.
Calling this an historic day for both Pakistan and the United States, Obama said that the two countries had in the operation, and that they must also cooperate going forward.
A senior U.S. counterterrorism official said bin Laden had been killed in a ground operation in Islamabad, Pakistan, not by a Predator drone. A senior Pakistani intelligence official also confirmed that bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.
This is a major accomplishment for Obama and his national security team. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had repeatedly vowed to bring to justice the mastermind of the September 11, attacks, but never did before leaving office in early 2009.
Bush lauded the capture of the al-Qaida mastermind, calling it a "momentous achievement."
U.S. officials said that after searching in vain for the al-Qaida leader since he disappeared in Afghanistan in late 2001, the Saudi-born extremist is now dead and his body has been recovered.
He had been the subject of a search since he eluded U.S. soldiers and Afghan militia forces in a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains in 2001. The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan.
While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.
Besides September 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks - including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen.