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Osama was hiding in a custom-built mansion about 100 km north of Pakistan's capital Islamabad.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi |
May 2, 2011 8:44:44 am

Osama bin Laden,the elusive mastermind behind the devastating September 11,2001,terror attacks that led the United States into war in Afghanistan and later Iraq,was killed in a firefight,President Barack Obama said Sunday.

Bin Laden’s death at a compound in Pakistan ended the world’s most widely-watched manhunt,and jubilant crowds gathered outside the White House and at ground zero in New York as word spread late at night.

“Justice has been done,” the President said.

The US State Department also put a worldwide alert shortly after President Barack Obama announced bin Laden’s death in a military operation.

Obama said a small team of Americans killed bin Laden early Sunday in the town of Abbottabat,about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of the capital Islamabad,U.S.,Pakistani officials said. The team took custody of his remains and American officials said they were being handled in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Three adult males were also killed in Sunday’s raid,including one of bin Laden’s sons,whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden’s sons,Hamza,is a senior member of al-Qaeda.

The death of the worlds’s most-wanted man came just months before the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon,orchestrated by bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization,that killed more than 3,000 people.

Former President George W. Bush,who was in office on the day of the attacks,issued a written statement hailing bin Laden’s death as a momentous achievement.

“The fight against terror goes on,but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes,justice will be done,” Bush said.

Obama said he ordered the operation after receiving undisclosed intelligence information. Senior administration officials said the terrorist mastermind was found inside a custom-built compound with two security gates. They said it appeared to have been constructed to harbor one high-value target and that for undisclosed reasons,officials became clear the hideout was bin Laden’s.

The raid occurred in the early morning hours Sunday. Administration officials offered some details of the operation.

Based on statements given by U.S. detainees,intelligence officials have known for years that bin Laden trusted one al-Qaeda courier in particular and they believed he might be living with him in hiding. In November,intelligence officials found out where he was living,a huge fortified compound. It was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet (5.5 metres),topped with barbed wire. There were two security gates and no phone or Internet running into the house.

Intelligence officials believed the $1 million home was custom-built to harbour a major terrorist. CIA experts analysed whether it could be anyone else,but time and again,they decided it was almost certainly bin Laden.

Officials also said they believe the death puts al-Qaeda on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse,but there was no word on the whereabouts of bin Laden’s second-in-command,Ayman al-Zawahri.

The attacks a decade ago seemed to come out of nowhere,even though al-Qaida had previously damaged American targets overseas.

The terrorists hijacked planes,flew one of them into one of Manhattan’s Twin Towers — and,moments later,into the other one. Both buildings collapsed,trapping thousands inside and claiming the lives of firefighters and others who had rushed to help them.

A third plane slammed into the Pentagon,defacing the symbol of America’s military might. A fourth crashed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers overpowered the hijackers and forced the craft from the air — before it could hit its intended target in Washington.

Obama spoke with Bush and former President Bill Clinton on Sunday night to inform them of the developments.

Obama struck a less than boastful tone in his brief announcement,although he said the death of bin Laden was “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda.

“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,” he added.

Moments after he spoke,American officials cautioned that the events could lead to heightened threats against the United States.

Officials said the U.S. would ensure that bin Laden’s body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Meanwhile,the U.S. put out a worldwide alert asking its embassies and organisations to be on alert for possible reprisals from al-Qaeda operatives and sympathisers after killing of Osama bin Laden by American forces in a compound near Pakistani capital Islamabad.

Simultaneously,the global police agency Interpol also called for increased security measures,warning that the death of bin Laden could provoke reprisal attacks around the world.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble urged “extra vigilance” from “law enforcement authorities to a heightened terror risk from Al-Qaeda affiliated or Al-Qaeda inspired terrorists as a result of Bin Laden’s death.”

These warnings come in the wake of threats by al-Qaeda terrorists to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if their leader bin Laden is nabbed or killed.

A senior al-Qaeda commander had claimed that the terror group has stashed away a nuclear bomb in Europe which will be detonated if bin Laden is ever caught or assassinated,according to whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

In the wake of this operation,there may be a heightened threat to the homeland and to US citizens and facilities abroad,a senior Administration official said.

“al-Qaeda operatives and sympathizers may try to respond violently to avenge bin Laden’s death,and other terrorist leaders may try to accelerate their efforts to strike the United States,” the official said.

But the US is taking every possible precaution to protect Americans here at home and overseas.

The worldwide travel alert has also been made for its citizens,especially those living in Pakistan.

“The US Department of State alerts US citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan,” the travel alert said.

Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation,US citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations,the alert said.

US citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times,the travel alert said.

The State Department said the US Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation.

“US government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture,” it said.

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