BIN LADEN DEAD
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US president Barack Obama has confirmed the United States has conducted an operation in which Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
Mr Obama made the statement during a late Sunday night appearance on US television.
"The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda - a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children," he said.
The confirmation follows widespread media reports that bin Laden was killed in a mansion outside Pakistan's capital Islamabad last week.
Mr Obama said he was briefed last August on a lead that bin Laden was hiding inside "a compound deep inside Pakistan".
"Last week [it was] determined we had enough information to attack the compound," he said.
"Today at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Pakistan.
"A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
There were no Americans nor civilian casualties in the mission, Mr Obama said.
Early reports said bin Laden had been killed along with 20 other people.
"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our efforts against Al Qaeda," Mr Obama said.
"Tonight is a testament to the greatness of our country... we are reminded that America can do whatever we set our minds to."
The 54-year-old Saudi had been the most wanted man in the world since 2001 when he helped orchestrate the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
"It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by an attack on the American people," Mr Obama said.
"Nearly 3,000 citizens were taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
"We reaffirmed our ties to each other, our love of community and country.
"We were united as one American family.
"We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation... we went to war against Al Qaeda.
"The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens."
Mr Obama reaffirmed the US was not at war with Islam.
"Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he killed scores of Muslims."
Mr Obama said he had a message for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
"We have never forgotten your loss nor wavered in our commitment to do whatever it takes to prevent further attacks on our shores," he said.
Bin Laden's killing is a major accomplishment for Mr Obama and his national security team, fulfilling the goal once voiced by Mr Obama's predecessor, George W Bush, to bring bin Laden to justice.
US soldiers and Afghan militia forces launched a large-scale assault on the Tora Bora mountains after the attacks in pursuit of bin Laden.
The trail quickly went cold after he disappeared and many intelligence officials believed he had been hiding in Pakistan.
While in hiding, bin Laden had taunted the West and advocated his militant Islamist views in videotapes spirited from his hideaway.
Besides September 11, the US has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen.
The death of bin Laden will raise huge questions about the future shape of Al Qaeda and also have steep implications for US security and foreign policy 10 years into a global anti-terror campaign.
It will also raise fears that the United States and its allies will face retaliation from supporters of bin Laden and other Islamic extremist groups.
Chants of "USA, USA" rang out from tourists outside the White House as reports of bin Laden's death sent an electric charge through Washington.
A group of around 20 people gathered outside the fence of the presidential mansion sung the US national anthem and started shouting and cheering.
Despite the decade that has elapsed since the September 11 attacks, the event, one of the most traumatic in US history, still stirs raw emotions, and bin Laden's demise will be celebrated across the United States.
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