UPDATE 9.20pm: OSAMA bin Laden’s body has been buried at sea, a US official says.
The US decided to bury him at sea because it would have been difficult finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist, the official said.
Media reports also said that burying bin Laden at sea would ensure that his final resting place did not become a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers, ABC television reported.
After bin Laden was killed in a raid this morning by US forces in Pakistan, senior administration officials said the body was handled according to Islamic practice and tradition.
That practice calls for the body to be buried within 24 hours, the official said.
The official did not immediately say where the body was buried at sea. It was earlier reported that bin Laden’s body had been moved to Afghanistan.
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US officials said the CIA tracked bin Laden to his compound in Abbottabad, about 65km north of the capital Islamabad, then elite Navy Seal troops flew to the hideout in four helicopters.
Bin Laden was shot in the head in an ensuing fire fight, the Press Association reported.
US personnel identified him by facial recognition. Officials declined to say whether DNA analysis had also been used.
The al-Qaida chief was living in a house that a US official said was “custom built to hide someone of significance”.
Abbottabad is far from the remote mountain caves along the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal border where most intelligence assessments had put bin Laden in recent years.
Also killed in the raid were three other men and a woman.
“In addition to Osama bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid,” a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Two of the men worked as couriers for bin Laden and the third was believed to be an adult son of bin Laden, the official said.
“One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant. Two other women were injured” in the raid that lasted less than 40 minutes, the official added.
The US State Department issued a global travel alert to all American citizens, warning of “enhanced potential” for anti-American violence, following the announcement of bin Laden’s death.
The US also put its embassies on alert, warning Americans of al-Qaida reprisal attacks.
US military bases around the world have been ordered to raise their threat level.
Mr Obama said the US had been narrowing down bin Laden’s whereabouts since receiving breakthrough intelligence in October.
The US President finally ordered a military strike this morning on a compound in Abbottabad.
“After a fire fight they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body,” Mr Obama said.
One of the helicopters crashed after it was apparently hit by fire from the ground, the official said. He gave no word on casualties.
He said the helicopters took off from a Pakistani air base in the north of the country.
Women and children were taken into custody during the raid, he said.
Mr Obama said the death of bin Laden would not end the fight against terrorism.
“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s efforts to defeat al-Qa’ida,” he said.
“We must and will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”
Mr Obama stressed the US was not at war with Islam or Muslim people and that bin Laden was a mass murdered
“His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace,” Mr Obama said.
“Bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
“They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations.”
Mr Obama said cooperation with Pakistan had helped lead the US to bin Laden.
He said Americans understood the cost of war but would not stand by if threatened.
“As a country we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed,” he said.
“We will be relentless in defence of our citizens and our friends and allies.
“We will be true to the values that make us who we are.
“And on nights like this one we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qa’ida terror, justice has been done.”
Pakistani officials also confirmed death of bin Laden, saying his death was the result of “highly sensitive” operation involving Pakistani intelligence operatives.
Outside the White House, tourists and visitors were heard chanting USA! USA! before Obama made any official announcement.
The Muslim fanatic, 54, is blamed for masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed more than 3000 people.
On September 11, 2001, al-Qa’ida terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners and intentionally crashed two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing everyone on board and many others in the building.
A third hit the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a field after passengers fought back against the hijackers.
The US has relentlessly pursued its search for bin Laden after he evaded capture during the American-led invasion of Afghanistan.
US armed forces have been hunting the Saudi terror kingpin for years, an effort that was redoubled following the 2001 terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon which killed 3000 people.
But bin Laden always managed to evade US armed forces and a massive manhunt, and was most often thought to be hiding out in Pakistan and Afghanistan border areas.
Late last month bin Laden warned al-Qa’ida would unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” if bin Laden was captured, according to classified documents released by Wikileaks.
The documents, released by Wikileaks and detailing the interrogation of more than 750 Guantanamo Bay detainees, reveal that the terrorist organisation plotted major chemical and biological attacks on Britain and mass poisonings across the US.
The intelligence assessments, written between 2002 and 2009 by US military intelligence officials, provide a detailed account of the movements of bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and other senior al-Qa’ida leaders following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
According to documents, a senior al-Qa’ida commander claimed the terrorist group had hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe that would be set off in the event of bin Laden’s capture or assassination. Numerous attempts by al-Qa’ida to obtain nuclear materials and uranium were uncovered by interrogators, the paper said.
The threat to unleash a nuclear hellstorm was made by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the most senior detainee held at Guantanamo and the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who is due to face a military tribunal later this year.