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Mission Truly Accomplished: Osama bin Laden Killed in U.S. Military Operation

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Slade Sohmer

By Slade Sohmer on May 1, 2011

“Justice has been done.” –President Obama.
“Damn right.” –America

Few people get to truly change the course of human history. Sunday night’s surprise breaking news story has two such people: Osama bin Laden and the U.S. special operations soldier who killed him.

Eight years to the day in which President George W. Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq, the United States military accomplished its original mission in the global war on terror: A U.S. military operation successfully killed the man long credited as the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin Laden is dead.

President Barack Obama publicly announced the news just before midnight ET on Sunday night, telling the world that bin Laden was killed at a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and that the United States has custody of the body.

“Tonight I can report…the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden,” President Obama said. The president reported the news tonight, though he revealed the first credible tip on bin Laden’s whereabouts came in August of last year. There were no American casualties, despite a firefight before bin Laden’s death, and civilian casualties were reportedly minimized.

ABC News has done some incredible reporting on details of the firefight:

According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters swept into the compound at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy Seals under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, killed Bin Laden and all those with him.

Two Bin Laden couriers were killed, as was one of Osama Bin Laden’s son, as was a woman reportedly used as a shield by one of the men. Other women and children were present in the compound, according to Pakistani officials, but were not harmed. U.S. officials said that Bin Laden himself did fire his weapon during the fight.

One of the U.S. helicopters was damaged but not destroyed during the operation, and U.S. forces elected to destroy it themselves with explosives.

The Americans took Bin Laden’s body into custody after the firefight and confirmed his identity. According to a senior administration official, the U.S. is “ensuring it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. It’s something we take seriously and therefore it’s being handled in an appropriate manner.”

ABC’s Jake Tapper, Sunlen Miller and Tahman Bradley added the scope of the full presidential involvement in a post early Monday morning: “White House national security staffers had been in the Situation Room since 1pm ET. At 2:00pm the President met with the Principals to review final preparations. At 3:50pm the President was told bin Laden had been tentatively identified. There was jubilation in the White House once the helicopter returned to Afghanistan. At 7:01 pm President Obama was told there was a ‘high probability’ bin Laden was dead.”

The AP obtained video of the firefight:

Marc Ambinder at the National Journal has a must-read post about “The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden”: “DevGru belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command, an extraordinary and unusual collection of classified standing task forces and special-missions units. They report to the president and operate worldwide based on the legal (or extra-legal) premises of classified presidential directives. Though the general public knows about the special SEALs and their brothers in Delta Force, most JSOC missions never leak. We only hear about JSOC when something goes bad (a British aid worker is accidentally killed) or when something really big happens (a merchant marine captain is rescued at sea), and even then, the military remains especially sensitive about their existence. Several dozen JSOC operatives have died in Pakistan over the past several years. Their names are released by the Defense Department in the usual manner, but with a cover story — generally, they were killed in training accidents in eastern Afghanistan. That’s the code.”

ABC News takes us inside the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed:

This is where the area lies on Google Maps:

Here’s an interesting nugget: According to this map, bin Laden was killed in between Abbottabad Hockey Stadium and Abbottabad Golf Club.

The New York Times obituary is out. Here’s the lede: “Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Sunday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.”

President George W. Bush, who began the hunt for bin Laden back in 2001, responded to the news with this statement (text courtesy of the National Journal):

Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001.

I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude.

This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

Rumors began running wild shortly after 10 pm ET when Keith Urbahn (Twitter bio: Chief of Staff, Office of Donald Rumsfeld, Navy Reserve intel officer, and owner of two miniature dachshunds. Opinions are my own) tweeted this:

On one of the greatest nights in recent American history, producers at Fox40 in Sacramento decided tonight wasn’t important enough to double check the chyrons: Obama bin Laden, eh?

Osama bin Laden was buried at sea earlier on Monday. Slate explains why: “The sea burial of Bin Laden’s body—probably in a heavy metal casket with holes drilled in the top and bottom—is a twist on a longstanding practice. Governments hate to see a nemesis’ burial place become a focal point for resistance. After the Nuremburg trials, the Allied authorities cremated the remains of Hermann Göring—who committed suicide prior to his scheduled hanging—and his nine executed compatriots. Their ashes were spread in the Conwentzbach River, a minor tributary that flows into the Isar, so that their graves wouldn’t become a place of worship for Nazi sympathizers. While the U.S. government might have preferred to cremate Bin Laden’s remains prior to disposal, Muslim tradition forbids cremation because it’s inconsistent with the resurrection of the body. (The Vatican placed the same prohibition on Catholics between 1886 and 1963.) U.S. officials have told reporters that Bin Laden’s body was handled in accordance with Islamic principles, although some Muslim scholars have already argued that the terrorist leader should have been buried in the ground with his head pointing toward Mecca.”

That’s not the only shot that will go viral. This one is everywhere already:

And this, in the same vein:

This announcement, received with unbridled glee by most Americans, represents the most significant accomplishment in the war on terror since 9/11. For that, we can all be thankful.

And does it get any better than this?

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