WASHINGTON — After nearly a decade of anger and fear, America rejoiced Monday at the demise of Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. Navy SEALs who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist seized a trove of al-Qaida documents to pore over, and President Barack Obama laid plans to visit New York’s Ground Zero.
Bin Laden, killed in a firefight in a raid at his hideout in Pakistan, was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials
His body was quickly taken away for burial at sea, but not before a DNA match was done to prove his identity. A U.S. official said there also were photos showing bin Laden with the fatal wound above his left eye, a gunshot that tore away part of his skull. The photos were not immediately released.
The CIA was already poring over confiscated hard drives, DVDs and other documents looking for inside information on al-Qaida, including clues that might lead to his presumed successor, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The SEALs dropped down ropes from helicopters at the compound, killed bin Laden aides and made their way to the main building where U.S. officials say the terror leader was slain in a gunfight. Within 40 minutes the Americans were gone.
“For my family and I, it’s good, it’s desirable, it’s right,” said Mike Low of Batesville, Ark., whose daughter Sara was a flight attendant aboard the hijacked plane that was flown into the World Trade Center North Tower. “It certainly brings an ending to a major quest for all of us.”
Bin Laden’s supporters confirmed his death in what U.S. officials said was an operation years in the making. Even so, officials were weighing the release of at least one photo taken of bin Laden’s body as part of what John Brennan, White House counter-terrorism adviser, called an effort to make sure “nobody has any basis to try and deny” the death.
U.S. officials said the information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s capture originally came from detainees held in secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe. There, agency interrogators were told of an alias used by a courier whom bin Laden particularly trusted.
It took four long years to learn the man’s real name, then years more before investigators got a big break in the case, these officials said.
U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.
Instead, Obama signed an order on Friday for a team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of
Brennan strongly suggested a live video feed was available — SEALs customarily have video cameras attached to their
According to officials who declined to be identified by name, bin Laden was shot in the head during a firefight, and his body was identified to near 100 percent certainty through DNA testing.
The only information about what occurred inside the compound came from American
Chris Brummitt reported from Islamabad. AP writers David Espo, Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Erica Werner, Pauline Jelinek, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Eileen Sullivan and Kimberly Dozier contributed to this story.