President Barack Obama announced late Sunday that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden earlier in the day in Pakistan, nearly 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bin Laden’s death “marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat the efforts of al-Qaida,” Obama said. Bin Laden was the founder and leader of the terrorist organization of Islamic extremists, which was behind the 2001 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people, and he was one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
A small team of Americans carried out the targeted operation Sunday against a compound in Pakistan, where U.S. intelligence officials believed bin Laden was hiding, Obama said from the White House. The U.S. forces killed bin Laden in a firefight and retrieved his body, the president added. Several others on the site were also killed but no Americans were harmed, senior administration officials told reporters during a conference call after the speech.
Obama was first briefed about a lead on bin Laden’s location in August. He repeatedly met with his national security team as it explored the intelligence, and at 8:20 a.m. Friday, before leaving for a tour of tornado damage in Alabama, he gave the final order to carry out the raid.
Obama struck historic tones in his brief remarks, saying that “the images of 9/11 are seared into American history” and that there were “nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.” He lauded the Americans who joined the military after the terrorist attacks, and he maintained that “we will be relentless in our defense” going forward.
Nineteen al-Qaida terrorists hijacked and crashed four commercial airliners on Sept. 11, 2001: Two struck and collapsed the World Trade Center towers in New York; one struck the Pentagon; and the fourth went down in a field near Shanksville, Pa., after passengers and crew members intervened to keep the hijackers from reaching Washington, D.C. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States reported in July 2004 that the Capitol or White House may have been the intended target.
The president added that the United States “is not and will not be at war with Islam,” touching on similar comments he has made in the past in an attempt to mend relations with the Muslim world. He also recalled the feelings of unity brought forth following the Sept. 11 attacks and suggested that Sunday’s late announcement should again bring the country together.