WASHINGTON – “Justice has been done.”
With those words, US President Barack Obama told the American public and the world Sunday night that the United States had succeeded in its 10-year mission to hold Osama bin Laden accountable for masterminding the September 11 attacks.
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“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,” Obama declared in a surprise television address from the White House.
“For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaida’s leader and symbol,
and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends
and allies,” he said. “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant
achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaida.”
Earlier in the day, a small American team led a helicopter raid on a
large compound in a residential area of Abbottabad, Pakistan, some 35
miles north of Islamabad, killing the Al Qaida leader in a fire fight
and capturing his body, according to senior administration officials. The New York Times reported that his body was later buried at sea. No
Americans were killed or injured, though a helicopter was lost to
mechanical failure, they said.
Obama stressed that bin Laden’s demise did not conclude America’s effort
to end the threat posed by Al Qaida, and that future dangers remained.
“There’s no doubt that al Qaida will continue to pursue attacks against
us,” he warned. “We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and
But he said that this moment would send a strong signal that the United
States would do whatever was necessary to protect the American people.
Obama also used the moment to appeal for national unity, recalling the
bond that drew Americans together following the death of nearly 3,000 of
their countrymen in the Twin Towers and Flight 93.
“Tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on
9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed,” he said. “Yet today’s
achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the
determination of the American people.”
Already as Obama spoke, close to midnight, hundreds of tourists and
local residents gathered at the White House to cheer his announcement,
chanting “USA! USA!” and spontaneously belting out the Star Spangled
Banner and other patriotic songs.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle began releasing statements
welcoming the development before the president had even made his
Obama spoke to former president George W. Bush, under whose tenure the
September 11 attacks occurred, before addressing the American public.
Bush later released a statement on the “momentous achievement.”
He said that, "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has
sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will
White House officials also reached out to foreign leaders before the
officials announcement was released. Israel's ambassador the US Michael
Oren was among those updated before Obama's statement.
US military installations and embassies have been put on high alert and
the State Department sent out an unusual world-wide travel warning for
American citizens in anticipation that there could be revenge attacks.
US authorities said they were not aware of any specific threats at this
time, but according to the travel warning, US citizens traveling “in
areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are
strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels
and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”
In addition, local authorities are redoubling efforts to secure potential targets, including synagogues, across the country.