By Staff on 2 may 2011 for Huffington Post -
Image above: Osama Bin Laden in life. From (http://grind365.com/news/news-news/breaking-news-osama-bin-laden-is-dead).
Helicopters descended out of darkness on the most important counterterrorism mission in U.S. history. It was an operation so secret, only a select few U.S. officials knew what was about to happen.
The location was a fortified compound in an affluent Pakistani town two hours outside Islamabad. The target was Osama bin Laden.
Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qaida courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living with the al-Qaida leader.
Nestled in an affluent neighborhood, the compound was surrounded by walls as high as 18 feet, topped with barbed wire. Two security gates guarded the only way in. A third-floor terrace was shielded by a seven-foot privacy wall. No phone lines or Internet cables ran to the property. The residents burned their garbage rather than put it out for collection. Intelligence officials believed the million-dollar compound was built five years ago to protect a major terrorist figure. The question was, who?
The CIA asked itself again and again who might be living behind those walls. Each time, they concluded it was almost certainly bin Laden.
President Barack Obama described the operation in broad strokes Sunday night. Details were provided in interviews with counterterrorism and intelligence authorities, senior administration officials and other U.S. officials. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Obama wanted to "pursue an aggressive course of action," a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
Normally, the U.S. shares its counterterrorism intelligence widely with trusted allies in Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. And the U.S. normally does not carry out ground operations inside Pakistan without collaboration with Pakistani intelligence. But this mission was too important and too secretive.
On April 29, Obama approved an operation to kill bin Laden. It was a mission that required surgical accuracy, even more precision than could be delivered by the government's sophisticated Predator drones. To execute it, Obama tapped a small contingent of the Navy's elite SEAL Team Six and put them under the command of CIA Director Leon Panetta, whose analysts monitored the compound from afar.
Panetta was directly in charge of the team, a U.S. official said, and his conference room was transformed into a command center.
Details of exactly how the raid unfolded remain murky. But the al-Qaida courier, his brother and one of bin Laden's sons were killed. No Americans were injured. Senior administration officials will only say that bin Laden "resisted." And then the man behind the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil died from an American bullet to his head.
It was mid-afternoon in Virginia when Panetta and his team received word that bin Laden was dead. Cheers and applause broke out across the conference room.
Scene of Attack in Pakistan
By Kamran Haider on 2 May 2011 for Yahoo News -
Residents of the Pakistani town of Abbottabad were jolted from their sleep on Sunday night by the boom of explosions, unaware the hunt for the world's most wanted man was coming to a bloody end in their sleepy hills.
Helicopter-borne U.S. forces swooped on a compound on the edge of Abbottabad in the middle of the night and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who was hiding there, nearly a decade after he masterminded the September 11 attacks. "We rushed to the rooftop and saw flames near that house. We also heard some gunshots," said Mohammad Idrees, who lives about 400 meters from the compound.
"Soon after the blast, we saw military vehicles rushing to the site."
Pakistani soldiers stopped reporters approaching the compound, which they had cordoned off with a red canvas screen.
A helicopter covered by a tarpaulin sat in a nearby field. Later, Pakistani soldiers dismantled the aircraft and took it away in pieces on trucks. U.S. officials earlier said a U.S. helicopter was lost due to a mechanical problem during the operation but that its crew safely evacuated.
Bin Laden's three-storey residence, called a mansion by U.S. officials, stood fourth in a row of about a dozen houses. A satellite dish could be seen in the compound, which itself was surrounded by high walls.
Television pictures from inside the house showed blood stains smeared across a floor next to a large bed. Nearby, a row of medicine was lined up on a shelf and some shirts hung in a cupboard.
Pakistani TV stations also showed a picture purportedly of bin Laden shot in the head, his mouth pulled back in a grimace. Reuters pictures editors determined the image was a fake after discovering a number of inconsistencies in the picture.
Another resident, Nasir Khan, said commandos had encircled the compound as three helicopters hovered overhead.
"All of a sudden there was firing toward the helicopters from the ground," said Khan, who watched the drama unfold from his roof.
"There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash."U.S. officials in Washington said a small U.S. team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison town some 60 km (35 miles) north of the capital Islamabad. After 40 minutes of fighting, bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men were dead.
U.S. officials said security measures at the compound included outer walls up to 5.5 meters (18 feet) tall topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound.
Fields sprouting green shoots stretched out in front of the compound while hills rose up behind it.
Residents said they were astounded to learn bin Laden had been in their midst. One neighbor said an old man had been living in the compound for the past 10 years.
"He never mixed much, he kept a low profile," said the neighbor, Zahoor Ahmed.
"It's hard to believe bin Laden was there. We never saw any extraordinary movements," said another neighbor, Adress Ahmed.
Abbottabad has long been a cool, leafy retreat from the heat of the Pakistan plains.
It was founded by a British army officer, James Abbott, in the mid-nineteenth century as the British were pushing the bounds of their Indian empire into the northwestern hills inhabited by Pashtun tribes.
Today, the town is home to a Pakistani military academy and its surrounding hills are dotted with summer homes.
Sohaib Athar, whose online profile says he is an IT consultant taking a break from the rat race, sent out a stream of live updates on Twitter about the movement of helicopters and blasts without realizing it was a raid on bin Laden.
When he learnd who had been killed, he tweeted: "Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood."
But it might take more to convince many people that bin Laden is dead.
One soldier on patrol near the compound said there had been talk before of bin Laden's death, only for it to be proven untrue.
"It's not clear if he was killed or not," the soldier said.
DNA test confirm Bin Laden Dead
By Pauline Jelenik & Robert Burns on 2 May 2011 for Huffington Post - (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/02/osama-bin-laden-dead-dna-test_n_856319.html)
The U.S. used multiple means to confirm the identity of Osama bin Laden during and after the firefight in which he was killed, before placing his body in the North Arabian Sea from aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, senior U.S. officials said Monday.
The al-Qaida leader was identified by name by a woman believed to be one of his wives – bin Laden had several – who was present at his Pakistan compound at the time of the U.S. raid. He also was visually identified by members of the U.S. raid squad, a senior intelligence official told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. Under ground rules set by the Pentagon, the intelligence official and two senior defense officials could not be identified by name.
The intelligence official also said quite a bit of unspecified material was collected by U.S. forces during the raid. Without describing the material, the official said it is being analyzed by a team of people at the CIA.
The officials said bin Laden was killed toward the end of the firefight, which took place overnight Monday in a building at a compound north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. His body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson and placed into the North Arabian Sea.
Traditional Islamic procedures for handling the remains were followed, the officials said, including washing the corpse, placing it in a white sheet. Preparations for at-sea burial began at 1:10 a.m. EDT Monday and were completed at 2 a.m. EDT, one official said.
The intelligence official said the DNA match, using DNA from several family members, provided virtual certainty that it was bin Laden's body.
Officials did not immediately say where or how the testing was done but the test explains why President Barack Obama was confident to announce the death to the world Sunday night. Obama provided no details on the identification process.
Dr. Bruce Budowle, a former senior scientist at the FBI, said DNA confirmation can be achieved quickly under the right circumstances.
Budowle, currently director of the Institute of Investigative Genetics at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, said using a sample of blood or a cheek swab, "you extract the DNA that day, get the PCR done in the same day, put it on the machine that night... and interpret it the following day." PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, technology allows scientists to rapidly copy a single stretch of DNA using cycles of heating and cooling. Then it's a matter of adding fluorescent dyes to compare specific spots on that chunk of DNA with the relative's sample.
If markers on standard, well-known regions match, they have a positive identification.
The U.S. is believed to have collected DNA samples from bin Laden family members in the years since the 9/11 attacks that triggered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. It was unclear whether the U.S. also had fingerprints or some other means to identify the body on site.
Bin Laden was shot in the head during the firefight with members of an elite American counter-terrorism unit that launched a helicopter-borne raid on the al-Qaida leader's compound, U.S. officials said. Officials said the U.S. special forces who stormed the compound came face to face with their prey.
U.S. officials also said bin Laden was identified through "facial recognition," a reference to technology for mapping unique facial characteristics, but it was not clear exactly how the Navy SEAL troops performed the comparison.
The body was photographed before being buried at sea, although no images have been released by the Obama administration.
The U.S. official who disclosed the burial at sea said it was not possible to find a country willing to accept the remains. Pressed by reporters to say which countries had been contacted about taking the remains, the official said, "I'm not going into details of those conversations."
Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial.
An official at Monday's Pentagon briefing said the body, once aboard the USS Carl Vinson, was washed and placed in a white sheet. It was then placed in a "weighted bag," and a military officer read prepared "religious remarks," which were translated into Arabic by a "native speaker" who was not further identified.
The body was then placed on a "prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body eased into the sea," the official said.
Details on how the body was transported to the ship were not provided.
Positive identification of the remains is considered a critically important part of the U.S. operation, given the symbolic importance of bin Laden's leadership of the Islamic extremist movement that was based in Afghanistan until the U.S. invaded in October 2001.
When al-Qaida's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June 2006, DNA tests were performed by the FBI to positively identify the remains. The U.S. military also performed an autopsy, in part to dispel allegations in the immediate aftermath of the airstrike that the terrorist leader had been beaten or shot by U.S. soldiers while in American custody.
It was not clear Monday whether the Obama administration intended to release its photos of bin Laden's body.
In July 2003, when U.S. forces killed Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, in a gunbattle in northern Iraq, the U.S. military released graphic after-death photographs in an effort to prove to Iraqis that they were dead. Two of the photos showed the first man, identified as Qusai, with bruises and blood spots around his eyes. That face was far more intact than the other, identified as Odai; the mouth was open with the teeth showing.