The USA tell us many months of behind the scenes intelligence led to his “Assassination” in the Pakistan town of Abbottabad. I thought it was like over 10 years to catch the No.1 Criminal in the world…
HELICOPTERS descended out of darkness on the most important counter-terrorism mission in US history. It was an operation so secret that only a select few US officials knew what was about to happen.
The location was a fortified compound in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad. The target was Osama bin Laden.
Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qa’ida 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-Qa’ida leader.
Nestled in an affluent neighbourhood, the compound was surrounded by walls as high as 5.5m, 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 had been 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.
US President Barack Obama described the operation in broad strokes today. Details were provided in interviews with counter-terrorism and intelligence authorities, senior administration officials and other US officials. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive operation.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Mr Obama wanted to “pursue an aggressive course of action”, a senior administration official said.
Over the next two-and-a-half months, Mr 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 US shares its counterterrorism intelligence widely with trusted allies in Britain, Canada, Australia and elsewhere. And the US 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, Mr 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.
Mr Panetta was directly in charge of the team, a US official said, and his conference room was transformed into a command centre.
Details of exactly how the raid unfolded remain murky, but the al-Qa’ida 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 US soil died from an American bullet to his head.
US personnel identified him by facial recognition. Officials declined to say whether DNA analysis had also been used.
It was mid-afternoon in Virginia when Mr Panetta and his team received word that bin Laden was dead. Cheers and applause broke out across the conference room.