Osama bin Laden, the criminal mastermind behind al-Qaida and the world’s most sought-after terrorist since the attacks of 11 September 2001, has been killed by a US operation, President Barack Obama will announce late on Sunday night.
Osama’s body is in possession of the US, having been killed in Pakistan as the result of a US special forces and CIA operation, according to the first leaks of reporting from the US television networks.
There were conflicting early reports about the circumstances of bin Laden’s death. CNN reported that he been killed at a “mansion near Islamabad” by a “US military operation”. Other sources said he had been killed in Afghanistan.
As the news spread, crowds gathered outside the gates of the White House in Washington DC, singing the national anthem and cheering.
President Obama is to make a highly unusual Sunday night live statement to announce the news, around 11.30pm eastern time.
The news comes eight years to the day that President George Bush declared “Mission accomplished” in Iraq. As president, Bush declared he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive” – but it is now the unlikely figure of Barack Obama who announces the final triumph as the US commander in chief.
This is a turning point in the global “war on terrorism” that has been waged since 9/11 – and the news will reverberate around the world.
The news comes as an unparalleled boost for US foreign policy, the key aim of which since 2001 has been the disarming and dismemberment of al-Qaida, and coincidentally probably insures the re-election of Obama in the 2012 presidential contest.