Osama bin Laden killed

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The National, Tuesday, May 3, 2011

WASHINGTON: Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed on Sunday in a fire-fight with covert US forces deep inside Pakistan, prompting US president Barack Obama to declare “justice has been done” a decade after the Sept 11 attacks.
The death of the reviled US enemy sparked jubilation across the United States, with a huge crowd gathering outside the White House just before midnight, chanting “USA, USA” as Obama made a dramatic nationwide address to Americans.
“Tonight, 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-Qaeda, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” Obama said.
He said in the historic address from the White House that he had directed the US armed forces to launch an attack against a compound in Pakistan last Sunday, acting on a lead that first emerged last August.
“A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.
“No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
“After a fire-fight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” The US president said Osa-ma’s death “marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda. Yet, his death does not mark the end of our effort”.
“There is no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must, and we will, remain vigilant at home and abroad,” he warned.
“We will be relentless in defence of our citizens and our friends and allies.
“We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And, on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror, justice has been done.”
The operation will likely go down as one of the most spectacular intelligence operations in US history, and provide a huge morale boost to the oft-criticised US covert community.
Former US president George W Bush, who was in office at the time of the Sept 11 attacks, said Osama’s death was a “momentous” achievement and congratulated Obama and US intelligence and military forces.
“This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world and for all those who lost loved ones on Sept 11, 2001,” Bush said in a statement.
“The fight against terror goes on but, tonight, America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed Osama’s death.
“Yes, I can confirm that he was killed in a highly sensitive intelligence operation,” an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Asked whether Pakistani intelligence participated in the operation, he only said: “It was a highly sensitive intelligence operation.”
Obama said he had called Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari after Osama’s death and said cooperation with the uneasy US anti-terror ally had helped lead American forces to Osama.
US armed forces have been hunting the Saudi terror kingpin for years, an effort that was redoubled following the attacks by hijacked airliners on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon which killed nearly 3,000 people in 2001.
A fourth passenger jet crashed in a remote area of Pennsylvania, apparently brought down after passengers revolted and tried to prevent it from reaching its target, assumed to be Washington.
Until Sunday, Osama had always managed to evade US armed forces and a massive manhunt, and was most often thought to be hiding out in Pakistan and Afghanistan border areas. 
The death of Osama will raise huge questions about the future shape of al-Qaeda and have steep implications for US security and foreign policy 10 years into a global anti-terror campaign.
It will provoke fears that the United States and its allies will face retaliation from supporters of Osama and other Islamic extremist groups.
Osama was top of America’s most wanted list, and was blamed by Washington for masterminding a string of other attacks, including the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Africa.
He frequently taunted Bush and Obama, after he took office in 2009, with taped messages. 
The news was welcomed by Americans across the country, even though Osama’s death was only confirmed shortly before midnight on Sunday. – AFP