On early Monday morning South African time, US President Barack Obama went in the front of the nation, and the world, to announce that Osama bin Laden has - finally - been killed. Bin Laden was shot in the head after a firefight in an Abbotabad compound, just outside Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, his final hiding place.
UPDATE: In the wake Bin Laden’s death, the US Government has issued a world-wide travel alert.
Watch full video of President Obama’s address:
Already around a thousand people gathered outside the White House. Most of them are young, and they are celebrating boisterously. Chants of “USA! USA! USA” break out occasionally with new treffers such as “he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead” to the tune of US anthem. People keep streaming in from all directions, some with flags, some with balloons, some with light sticks, dogs are mingled in with the crowd wherever a camera spotlight falls, the crowd bursts out into even louder chants, singing, and general cheering camera flashes are almost constant. Many in the crowd are taking turns taking pictures of one another with the White House in the background. The smiles are enormous.
Increasingly, people will arrive without having heard the news, attracted from surrounding appartments by all the noise. When told, the typical response is: “Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding!”
Police are slowly starting to join the scene, but were clearly caught unawares by the size of the crowd at such a late hour but it looks like this party could last well past dawn.
Photo: Phillip de Wet (The Daily Maverick)
The full text of President Obama’s address:
Good evening. 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, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history.The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory. Hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky, the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground, black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon, the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet, we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world, the empty seat at the dinner table, children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father, parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11th, 2001 in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country.
Photo: People take photos of a news ticker as they celebrate after Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, in New York’s Times Square, May 2, 2011. Bin Laden was killed on Sunday in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan and his body was recovered, announced President Barack Obama. REUTERS/Chip East.
On that day, no matter where we came from, what god we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda, an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocence in our country and around the globe.
And so we went to war against al Qaeda, to protect our citizens, our friends and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense.
In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support.
And around the globe, we’ve worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet, Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world. And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle and defeat his network.
Then last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.
It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground.
I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside Pakistan.
And finally last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Photo: Abbottabad, Pakistan (Wikimedia Commons)
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.
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, because 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 have 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.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens.
Photo: Soldiers patrol the city of Abbotabad in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province May 2, 2011. Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan and his body was recovered, President Barack Obama said on Sunday. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood
After nearly 10 years of service, struggle and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as commander-in-chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet, as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are.
And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
Tonight we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work or know their names, but tonight they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they’re a part of the generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people. The cause of securing our country is not complete, but tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens, our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things, not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.
Read more: President’s Vow Fulfilled, By Jeff Zeleny in The New York Times.
"Take a chance, won't you? Knock down the fences which divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison you. Reach out. Freedom lies just on the other side." ~ Thurgood Marshall