A collaboration across the American government resulted in a successful strike that killed Osama bin Laden. Only a small group of people within the White House knew the details of the operation that was underway.

On Sunday morning, President Barack Obama ordered an attack on a compound suburb of Pakistan called Abbottabad that bin Laden was believed to be occupying with family and confidants.

Based on intelligence that had been being gathered since August 2010, there was a strong probability that the location of bin Laden was known. Due to the high security of the compound and its location near Islamabad, Pakistan’s capitol, extreme caution was taken to carry out this dangerous mission, according to White House sources, speaking to Blast last night.

A helicopter raid was conducted by a small team of nine US special forces operatives. Bin Laden tried to fight back and was shot and killed in the resulting firefight. Three other men were also killed, including one of bin Laden’s sons and two reputed al-Qaeda couriers. 

Women and children were also present in the house at the time of the raid. One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by one of the male occupants of the house, the sources said. Two other women were injured during the operation. No children were hurt and there were no civilian casualties.

The operation aimed to minimize “collateral damage,” the sources said.

The team left the compound in less than 40 minutes and was not confronted by any local authorities.

One US helicopter was destroyed during the mission, but the soldiers escaped safely from the aircraft.

Planning began in early September 2010 between the CIA and Obama. Beginning in March 2011 Obama conducted at least five National Security Council meetings once it was determined that there was enough intelligence to continue, the sources said.

The raid on the compound stemmed from information regarding a mansion owned by two brothers who had no explainable source of income, yet lived in a $1 million, heavily secured fortress of a home. The security measures for the compound were elaborate and included 12 to 18 foot walls topped with barbed wire, the officials said.

In addition there were two security gates guarding the entrances and trash was burned by the residents instead of being taken out. There was also no phone or internet service connected to the mansion.

The White House officials believed that the house was custom-built for bin Laden. It was built about five years ago, but it is unclear how long bin Laden had been a resident. He was living there with two other families and his family members, including his youngest wife.

Obama made the final decision to authorize the operation on Friday morning, and it was carried out successfully on Sunday.

Before addressing the nation regarding the mission, Obama spoke to former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to review the events of the day and share the statement that he was going to make to the nation.

During his nationally broadcast statement he said, “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.”

Although there have not been any specific threats, precautions are being taken by the US government to increase security and protect Americans in the United States and abroad. There is a possibility of violent retaliation by al-Qaeda and other terrorist leaders can also decide to increase their efforts, but the US is prepared to fight.

Bin Laden was the head of al-Qaeda, the organization responsible for the September 11 terrorist attacks. His death is a significant disruption to the organization’s efforts and may lead to its demise. Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawarhi, is thought to be less of a threat due to his lesser influence in the organization. He is believed to be less charismatic and not as respected by the members of al-Qaeda, according to White House intelligence from other leaders.

The government adhered to American and international law in carrying out the mission, but details of the operation were not shared with any other country, the officials said.

Obama, in his remarks, did point out that cooperation with Pakistan helped lead to bin Laden and the mansion.  Since bin Laden was responsible for attacks against Pakistani people and had declared war against the country as well, Pakistan’s president shared in the US sentiment of accomplishment.

Obama said in his speech, “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.” Nevertheless, bin Laden’s body is in US custody and will be treated in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.

Ultimately, in spite of the fight that may still lie ahead, Obama stated yesterday that “justice has been done.”

About The Author

Miya Williams is a Blast editor-at-large

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