Minutes before the official White House news conference was supposed to convene, the word began leaking out over Twitter: Did the U.S. have Osama bin Laden’s dead body — the body of the man considered the mastermind behind Al Qaeda and the September 11 attacks — in possession? For several minutes, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer danced around the topic, noting that this was probably something that had been in the works for “a very long time,” before Obama offered an official confirmation: Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. Special Forces.
On the eighth anniversary of George W. Bush’s famous “Mission Accomplished” speech, President Obama was able to definitively say Bin Laden was confirmed dead and U.S. forces were in possession of his body.
In a speech made just around 11:40 p.m., the president laid out the details of the events leading up to Bin Laden’s death. He first established a lead on Bin Laden’s whereabouts last August. Last week, he determined that there was enough intelligence to act. Said Obama, “The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims. His demise should be welcome to all.”
Bin Laden was killed, apparently, inside a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, with the help, stressed Obama, of Pakistani counterterrorism forces. “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.” In order to confirm that the body was, in fact, Bin Laden, U.S. officials subpoenaed DNA from Bin Laden’s sister (who had died in a Boston hospital) and found a match. All told, the operation took around 40 minutes to complete. Obama added that after the attack was carried out, he spoke to Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari. “This is a good and historic day for both of our nations,” said Obama.
In New York, Mayor Bloomberg released a statement of his own:
Incredibly, Google Maps has already pinpointed the location of Bin Laden’s compound. It was reportedly three blocks from a police station.