Washington/Islamabad: Osama bin Laden, the world`s most wanted terror icon who orchestrated the 9/11 attack on the United States through his Al Qaeda outfit, was killed in Abbottabad near the Pakistan capital by US-led forces, ending one of the world`s biggest and costliest manhunts that at one time seemed to be going up in smoke.
Islamabad was pointedly not involved in the military operation on their soil but was informed about it later.
The death of the world`s most sought after fugitive was announced by US President Barack Obama in Washington, capping a meticulous intelligence and military operation that culminated in a swift, 40-minute assault on a $1 million mansion just a stone`s throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, in Abbottabad, 60 km from Islamabad.
American choppers flew in the dead of night, swooped down on the barricaded building that was sheltering Osama and killed him at close quarters. Osama, 54, who carried a bounty of $25 million, was shot in the head when he resisted, it was reported.
Buried at Sea
It appeared that the body of the terrorist, who had eluded the combined US-led forces for almost two decades since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York, was put in a chopper and then buried at sea according to Islamic rites.
This was apparently because it would have been difficult to find a country that would have accepted his body.
Burying his body at sea would ensure that his final resting place does not become a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers as that of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain, whose grave has been converted into a tomb, which is treated more like a shrine by his followers.
The burial took place within hours after his body was airlifted by US Special Forces to an US warship. However, there is no information on the identity of the ship or where it is located.
DNA, wife confirms identity
As per reports, the US used "multiple methods" to positively identify Osama’s remains, the most important being DNA evidence, which have confirmed the death.
As per officials in the know, DNA evidence provides a match with 99.9 percent confidence.
The US is believed to have collected DNA samples from bin Laden family members in the years since the 9/11 attacks that triggered the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. It was unclear whether the US also had fingerprints or some other means to identify the body on site.
There are also reports, that Osama’s wife has also confirmed that the man killed is indeed her husband.
Justice done: Obama
"Justice has been done," declared Obama from the White House, describing how American military and CIA operatives finally cornered Osama through a trusted courier who had come to their attention four years ago. But the concrete lead came only in August 2010.
"For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda`s leader and symbol," Obama said on television as cheering crowds gathered outside the gates of the White House waving American flags and chanting "USA! USA!".
It was a cathartic moment for many Americans, traumatised by the Sep 11, 2001 terror attack when two hijacked aircraft slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center while a third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people were killed.
Obama said: "The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation`s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort...We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad."
Pakistan, which had consistently denied harbouring Osama, called it a major setback to terror organisations around the world. It is believed that the ailing Osama had been kept in one place because he needed frequent dialysis treatment.
The Foreign Office said in a statement: "It is Pakistan`s stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country."
But there was consternation amongst people in the country. Was the Pakistani government kept in the loop about the covert operation to nab the terror mastermind? Did it know that Osama had been living in Abbottabad, a city with heavy military presence?
It didn`t appear to be so.
Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said he was surprised Osama was in Abbottabad. Musharraf, who was the Pakistan president during the 9/11 strike, told CNN-IBN that the operation by US forces was a "violation of our sovereignty" -- an implicit admission that Islamabad did not know about the American raid.