BY MATT ROMANOSKI
Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is dead, President Obama announced late Sunday night from the White House.
"Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children," Obama said just before midnight in a televised address.
"Justice has been done."Obama said the Al Qaeda leader, the world's most wanted man, was killed by American forces in Pakistan. ABC News reported that DNA testing confirmed the body was that of bin Laden.
"A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability," Obama said. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
Bin Laden was located at an elaborate mansion-like compound in Abbottabad, just 40 miles north of the Pakistani capital. Obama said that once it was determined the United States had enough intelligence to take action, he authorized the "Targeted Operation."
ABC News said the operation was carried out by "twenty to 25 U.S. Navy Seals." Obama said that no U.S. soldiers were killed in the assault and care was taken to avoid civilian casualties. Three adult males -- including one of bin Laden's sons -- and a woman being used as a human shield were killed in the operation, the Associated Press reported.
"The American people did not choose this fight," Obama said. "It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens."
Obama reiterated -- just as President Bush had in the days following the 2001 attacks -- that the United States was not at war with Islam.
"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims," Obama said. "Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own.
"So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
Bush called the death of bin Laden a "victory for America," Reuters reported.
"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," Bush said in a statement.
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," he said.
The announcement set off an immediate celebration outside the White House, where hundreds gathered in jubilation, singing the Star Spangled Banner and chanting, "USA! USA!" A crowd also began to gather in celebration at Ground Zero in New York. The crowd at Sunday night's Mets-Phillies game also broke into "USA! USA!" chants as word made its way through the stadium.
Bin Laden was the founder and leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network. He admitted responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks, gloating soonafter that the death toll of nearly 3,000 had exceeded even his twisted expectations.
"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant acheivement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al Qaeda," Obama said. "Yet his death does not mark the end of our efforts.
"There is no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must, and we will, remain vigilant at home and abroad."
Al Qaeda has also claimed responsibility for terrorist acts around the globe, including the first attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993, the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa and the Oct. 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.
"The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to," Obama said. "That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
"Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."