Updated 12:52 a.m. May 2, 2011
In a rare, late-night statement from the White House Sunday at 11:35 p.m., President Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a firefight Sunday, in “a compound deep inside Pakistan.” Bin Laden was the founder and leader of the Al Qaeda network that perpetrated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
His death comes nearly 10 years after the terrorist attacks that made him the world’s most wanted fugitive, and eight years to the day after President George W. Bush declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq.
According to Obama, the U.S. acquired the initial intelligence it needed to locate, and ultimately kill, Bin Laden last August. After working in conjunction with Pakistani intelligence forces, Obama gave the green light Friday to the operation that resulted in the deadly Sunday raid. Bin Laden was located by the CIA in a massive, fortified compound north of Islamabad, Pakistan, and killed by U.S. military forces.
No Americans were killed or injured in the raid. A woman at the site being used as a human shield died, according to a senior administration official on a conference call with reporters. Bin Laden is said to have resisted the assault force and been killed in an ensuing firefight. Intelligence officials in other countries, including Pakistan, were only informed of the raid after it had been conducted.
The United States lost a helicopter to mechanical failure and intentionally destroyed the disabled aircraft during the mission.
Reiterating that the United States’ wars in the Muslim world are not wars against Islam, Obama noted that Bin Laden “was not a Muslim leader. Indeed, he slaughtered scores of Muslims…. his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in human peace and in human dignity.”
Bin Laden’s body is in U.S. custody, on its way to the United States, and is being handled, according to administration officials, in accordance with Islamic traditions.
The initial reports of his death were based on leaks that took place after the White House briefed key congressional players on the successful operation. Official reactions from Capitol Hill Republicans and Democrats have been overwhelmingly laudatory to Obama, and, with rare exception, have been unpolitical. (“I commend President Obama who has followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.)
Before he was elected President, Obama vowed to capture and kill Bin Laden. Early in his Presidency, George W. Bush claimed at a press conference that he’d largely lost interest in Bin Laden’s whereabouts. His administration’s inability to locate Bin Laden became a major political liability until he left office.
In a statement shortly after Obama spoke, Bush said, “Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission.”
“It’s bringing back a lot of emotions from September 11th, and I’m thinking about the victims and families from that day,” said former Bush spokesman Tony Fratto in a statement to TPM. “The world is better today knowing he’s gone, but we know that we have to stay vigilant in fighting the the terrorists he spawned.”
Administration officials claim there are no specific threats to the United States in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, but nonetheless say there is a heightened national security threat at this time.
Additional reporting Susan Crabtree, Evan McMorris-Santoro, Ryan Reilly
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.