Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, has been killed by US military, President Barack Obama confirmed today.
The Al Qaeda leader died in a dramatic firefight with special forces, ending the 10-year hunt for the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Bin Laden, 54, was killed in a US$1million mansion hideout outside Islamabad along with other family members.
It came after the US military received “actionable intelligence” about his whereabouts.
A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed Bin Laden had been killed.
And DNA tests and facial recognition techniques have been carried out on the body. Results for which have not yet been released.
It has been claimed Bin Laden’s body has already been buried at sea in order to prevent the grave becoming a shrine for extremists.
Obama addressed the United States shortly after 11pm local time on Sunday night.
He said: “Tonight I can report to the American people and the world that United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
“Justice has been done.”
Obama said Bin Laden had been killed by a small group of Navy Seals.
Troops stormed his two-storey mansion after working on a tip which surfaced last August.
Four helicopters were involved in the attack.
Bin Laden’s son as well as two of his men and a woman were also killed in the raid.
According to Pakistani officials in the town, Bin Laden was given the opportunity to surrender, but he refused and was blasted in the head.
“Last week I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action and authorised an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” Obama said.
“Today at my direction the US launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. After a firefight they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
US officials have not confirmed the terrorist leader’s body has already been buried.
But an administration official said of the corpse: “We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.
“This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.”
Some analysts have warned Bin Laden’s death may inspire revenge from followers who see him as a martyr.
Paul Pillar, a former senior US intelligence official, said: “As a symbol, as a source of ideology, Bin Laden can continue to play those roles dead as well as alive.”
As the news of Bin Laden’s death broke, crowds of Americans gathered outside the White House, in Washington, singing the national anthem and chanting: “USA! USA!”
Groups also gathered at ‘ground zero’ in New York to celebrate the news.
US military posts around the world have been put on high alert in case of retaliation attacks.
And the State Department is warning of a heightened possibility for anti-American violence, and it issued a worldwide travel alert.
The department warned of an “enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan”.
It continued: “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 embassy operations would continue “to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation”.
It noted that embassies and consulates may temporarily close or suspend public services, depending on conditions.
Political leaders around the world welcomed the news of Bin Laden’s death.
Prime minister David Cameron said that the move was “a massive step forward” while Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “triumph for justice”.
In a televised statement later at Chequers, Mr Cameron added: “This news will be welcomed right across our country.
“Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead. But it is, I believe, a massive step forward.
“Osama bin Laden was responsible for the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children right across the world – people of every race and religion.
“He was also responsible for ordering the death of many, many British citizens, both here and in other parts of the world.
“I would like to congratulate the US forces who carried out this brave action. I would like to thank President Obama for ordering this action.
“And I think it is a moment when too we should thank all of those who work day and night, often with no recognition, to keep us safe from the threat of terror.
“But above all today, we should think of the victims of the poisonous extremism that this man has been responsible for.
“Of course, nothing will bring back those loved ones that families have lost to terror. But at least they know the man who was responsible for these appalling acts is no more.”
Bin Laden was born in 1957 in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh – he was the 17th of more than 50 children.
After marrying four women in the 1970s, it has been reported he fathered up to 24 children.