Osama bin Laden, the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader and chief architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, was killed by U.S. forces Sunday in what officials described as a surgical raid on his luxury hideout in Pakistan.
In a rare Sunday night address from the East Room of the White House, President Obama said a small team of U.S. personnel attacked a compound Sunday in Pakistan’s Abbottabad Valley, where bin Laden had been hiding since at least last summer. During a firefight, the U.S. team killed bin Laden, 54, and took custody of his body in what Obama called “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda.”
[...] The discovery that bin Laden had been hiding in a well-populated part of Pakistan, rather than a remote location, raised new questions about the extent to which Pakistan is cooperating with the United States in combating terrorism.
U.S. forces flew to bin Laden’s hideout in helicopters about 1 a.m. Monday (late Sunday afternoon in Washington). Bin Laden was shot in the head after he and his guards resisted the U.S. attackers, the Associated Press reported. U.S. personnel identified him by facial recognition.
A U.S. official said bin Laden’s body was quickly transported away from Pakistan and “buried at sea,” in part because the U.S. government did not want an accessible gravesite that could become a shrine to bin Laden’s followers. The official declined to identify which body of water the corpse was taken to, or provide further details on how it was transported or handled.
The official said the body was buried “in accordance with Islamic tradition,” meaning within 24 hours of bin Laden’s death. No information was available as to whether Muslim prayers were recited or the body was ritually washed, as is usually required by Islamic law. In general, burial at sea means tipping the body overboard — wrapped, likely, in a shroud — after a brief service.
- Al Qaeda emir Osama bin Laden confirmed killed by US forces in Pakistan, by Bill Ardolino and Bill Roggio. The Long War Journal May 1, 2011.
- Nation reacts to Osama bin Laden’s death A slidedshow of reactions from across the world.
- The life and death of Osama Bin Laden. (Washington Post)
- Inside the Raid on Osama Bin Laden's Pakistan hideout
Personal (Mixed) Thoughts ...
The hunt for Bin Laden began not in 2001 but 1998 -- with the federal indictment by the Clinton administration following bombings of U.S. embassies in Keny aand Tanzania, not to mention the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. After eluding the authorities for over a decade, justice has finally been served. That, at least, is cause for celebration.
"Celebration" of a certain sort. Perhaps muted reflection and mindfulness would be more appropriate here. No, I cannot say I was at all enthused by the "USA-USA-USA" chanting of the jubilant flag-waving throngs gathered at the White House. (Save that for the Olympics).
This is certainly not the end of the "war on terror" -- Osama was an ideological figurehead. His right-hand and present "operational and strategic commander" of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still at large, and autonomous factions of jihadists will spring up from time to time. Perhaps even a new icon will emerge.
This is but a moment's respite. It is not the end.
Still, I pray that this event will bring some sense of closure to the families of the victims of 9/11, and the many victims of the attacks by Al Qaeda which preceded and followed it.
May God have mercy on the soul of Osama Bin Laden -- and let us pray for his soul, even if we must do so out of obligation rather than inclination, because that is what Our Savior has taught us.