Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 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 firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.Read the whole statement here.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden 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’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will -- remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Former US President Bill Clinton said in a statement: "This is a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in al-Qaeda's other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children." - BBC News
Former President George W. 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." - - BBC News
NYT's Nicholas Kristof writes:
"So what does this mean? First, it is good for the United States reputation, power and influence that we finally got bin Laden. Bin Laden’s ability to escape from the U.S., and his apparent impunity, fed an image in some Islamist quarters of America as a paper tiger — and that encouraged extremists. Bin Laden himself once said that people bet on the strong horse, the horse that will win, and the killing underscores that it’s the United States that is the horse to bet on. Moreover, this sends a message that you mess with America at your peril, and that there will be consequences for a terror attack on the United States."
CNN reports that U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world were placed on high alert following the announcement of bin Laden's death, a senior U.S. official said, and the U.S. State Department should be sending out a new "worldwide caution" for Americans shortly. Some fear al Qaeda supporters may try to retaliate against U.S. citizens or U.S. institutions.
As of this writing, the "Worldwide Caution" has not been updated yet. But be careful out there.
Where exactly is Abbottabad in Pakistan? Below is a brief description according to Wikipedia:
Abbottabad (Urdu: ایبٹ آباد) is a city located in the Hazara region of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in Pakistan. The city is situated in the Orash Valley, 50 km northeast of Islamabad and 150 km east of Peshawar at an altitude of 4,120 feet (1,260 m). The city is well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments. It remains a major hub for tourism of regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir in the summer.
Below is another description of Abbottabad from a medical school in the area:
Abbottabad, the headquarters of Hazara Division, situated at an altitude of 1,225 m (4002 ft) above sea level and surrounded by refreshing green hills of Sarban, is one of the best-known hill resorts of Pakistan. It is situated on the Karakoram Highway (Silk Route) to China, 120 Km from Rawalpindi/Islamabad and 205 Km from Peshawar. The climate is temperate with 4 distinct seasons-spring, summer, autumn and winter. The summer is pleasant while the winter is moderately cold with occasional snowfall. The city is non-industrial, situated in the green Orash valley and is free from environmental pollution. It has a population of over 300,000.The medical school mentioned above touts the city as one of the most sought after summer resorts in Pakistan. Also this:
The modern city of Abbottabad was founded by Major Abbott, the British deputy commissioner of Hazara (1849 to 1853) during British rule in the subcontinent. Major Abbott is credited with making major changes in the administrative setup in the region, so that after his departure, the city was named after him. The British maintained a sizeable military presence here, evidenced even today by the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), which has remained as the major training academy for military officers. The PMA provided fame to Abbottabad for many years, prior to the recent development of the city, from a non-industrial backward area, to a busy modern business, economic and academic centre.
Abbottabad boasts the highest number of educational institutions in the country per population or area. The literacy rate is also among the highest in the country. Two other medical colleges in private sectors are already established with one in the pipeline. Besides PMA, Abbottabad Public School, Army Burn Hall, Beacon House and some other very famous educational institutions are situated here. Visitors and tourists are pleasantly surprised to note the abundance of good hotels, restaurants, dining places and tourist facilities.
In fact, there was a poem written about Abbottabad's splendor and beauty. And contrary to what you might expect as rugged and cave-like dwelling/hiding place for OBL, his place of residence boasts of some golf clubs, too, like the Abbottabad Golf Club and the Piffers' golf club reportedly maintained by Pakistan's Army.
One wonders how long was OBL a resident of that compound in Abbottabad. At least since August last year, but probably longer, hard to say. But our General Petreaus may have been in the same city in 2010 as this (until today) most wanted man in the world.
In Feb. 24, 2010, then U.S. Central Command commander Gen. David Petraeus visited Pakistan, Feb. 22-24, to consult with Pakistan leaders and U.S. Embassy officials in Islamabad. According to CENTCOM's press shop, while in Pakistan, Gen. Petraeus met with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari; Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani; Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff; and several other senior Pakistani government officials. He also visited the Pakistan Military Academy in the North-West Frontier Province near Abbottabad and addressed students there.
The PMA is located 5 km northeast of Abbottabad city.
Small world. Got a lot smaller today.
Updated @11:05 pm PST
Read The Envoy's Laura Rozen post here with inside details of the raid from an official brief. Also read Steve Coll's piece here in the New Yorker on the implication of OBL's hideout located in a military cantonment in Pakistan. Read Marc Ambinder here on the secret team that killed OBL.
Click here for the background briefing from a Senior Officials on the killing of Bin Laden at 12:03 A.M. EDT (published by State's IIP Digital, the new America.gov).