Friday, December 6, 2013
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By SCOTT WILSON and CRAIG WHITLOCK The Washington Post
Osama bin Laden has been killed in an American operation in Pakistan, President Obama announced from the White House on Sunday, calling his death “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida.”
President Obama reads his statement to photographers after making a televised statement on the death of Osama bin Laden from White House on Sunday night. The al-Qaida leader was killed in Pakistan by U.S. forces, the president said.
The Associated Press
In a statement delivered from the East Room, Obama said a small team of U.S. personnel attacked a compound Sunday in Pakistan’s Abbottabad Valley, where bin Laden had been hiding since late last summer. After a firefight, Obama said, the U.S. team killed bin Laden and “took custody of his body.”
“We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies,” a somber Obama said in his nine-minute statement. “We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one we can say to families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaida’s terror: Justice has been done.”
The killing of bin Laden – which set off cheers outside the White House gates and lit up the Internet with celebration – will provide a clear moment of victory for Obama at a moment of deep political turmoil overseas that is upending long-standing U.S. policy in much of the Muslim world, particularly the Arab Middle East.
It also comes just two months before Obama is scheduled to begin bringing home some of the 100,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan, a drawdown he promised when he widened the American involvement there at the end of 2009.
Whether bin Laden’s death will have a tangible impact on al-Qaida’s operational capability is unclear, given that, hunkered down in Pakistan’s lawless border region for years, he has served more as the group’s spiritual leader than military commander.
But it will almost certainly help lift support for U.S. involvement in the war, which Obama intends to wind down through 2014, and give the president an irrefutable national security achievement to showcase during his re-election effort. Obama said he has first received intelligence of bin Laden’s possible whereabouts last August, and gave the order Sunday for the operation that ended in his death.
Quoting a senior administration official, The Associated Press reported that Obama gave the final order for U.S. officials to go after bin Laden on Friday. The official added that a small team found their quarry hiding in a large home in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. The raid occurred in the early morning hours Sunday.
Administration officials offered some details of the operation.
Based on statements given by U.S. detainees, intelligence officials have known for years that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaida courier in particular and they believed he might be living with him in hiding. In November, intelligence officials found out where he was living, a huge fortified compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. It was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet high, topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and no phone or Internet running into the house.
Intelligence officials believed the $1 million home was custom-built to harbor a major terrorist. CIA experts analyzed whether it could be anyone else, but time and again, they decided it was almost certainly bin Laden.
Three adult males were also killed in Sunday’s raid, including one of bin Laden’s sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden’s sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida.
Obama spoke with Bush and former President Bill Clinton on Sunday night to inform them of the developments.
“There is no doubt that al-Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against us,” Obama said. “We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad. As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not at war with Islam.”
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