OSAMA bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, is dead - killed by US anti-terrorist forces in a daring raid in Pakistan, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
He was the man held responsible for the World Trade Centre terrorist attack in New York on September 11 2001, and the London bombings of July 7 2005
But he was not holed up in a cave, as the world suspected - he was found in a $1m villa in Abbotabad, a town just 60-miles from the Pakistan capital Islamabad.
His compound, hidden behind high security walls, was within a mile of a military academy known as Pakistan’s Sandhurst.
It is certain to revive questions over possible collusion with al Qaida by elements within the Pakistani security forces.
For years, Pakistan’s ISI security agency has been blamed for fostering the Taliban movement which gave bin Laden sanctuary in Afghanistan.
Bin Laden was reportedly asked to surrender by US forces before he was shot.
Speaking from the White House, President Barack Obama said he authorised the operation. The body of the al Qaida leader was now in US custody, he said.
Pakistani television stations have broadcast what they described as unconfirmed images of Osama bin Laden’s bloodied face.
Other channels also showed the image of a face.
There were extensive blood stains on the forehead and left temple. The right eye was shut but the whites of the left eye were visible.
The hair was mangled and the mouth was slightly open with teeth showing.
Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed today’s development in a statement issued by 10 Downing Street. “The news that Osama bin Laden is dead will bring great relief to people across the world,” he said.
“Osama bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen - for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives, many of them British. It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror.”
Mr Cameron added: “This is a time to remember all those murdered by Osama bin Laden, and all those who lost loved ones. It is also a time too to thank all those who work round the clock to keep us safe from terrorism. Their work will continue. I congratulate President Obama and those responsible for carrying out this operation.”
Mr Obama said he had made “the killing or capture” of bin Laden his “top priority” in a war against al Qaida after he took office as president. He said a “targeted operation” was launched on Sunday against the compound where bin Laden was hiding “deep inside Pakistan”.
Jubilant crowds emerged outside the White House after the President made his announcement about the terrorist’s death.
Former US president Bill Clinton said in a statement: “This is a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in al Qaida’s other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children.”
US officials said they are ensuring Bin Laden’s body is handled in accordance with Islamic tradition and practice.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague ordered UK embassies around the world to review their security today in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Mr Hague said the UK should be “even more vigilant” than usual for the threat of terror attacks in the coming days.
Al Qaida will “undoubtedly” recover and strike back in retaliation for Osama bin Laden’s killing, experts said today.
While his death will come as a “major blow” for the terrorist organisation, the American “triumph” could lead to serious reprisals, they warned.
John Gearson, reader in terrorism studies and director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King’s College London, said organisations across the globe were now likely to “ramp up” their security.
“I think the significance of what has happened cannot really be overstated,” he said.
“I would expect embassies and military bases around the world to be on high alert for some time.”
David Hartley, whose wife Marie, 34, of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, was killed in the 7/7 attacks, said the news brought no real sense of justice.
He added he was worried there was no shortage of extremist leaders willing to replace him.
“They have got one but there are more behind there,” he said.
“I can’t see this meaning terrorism is likely to stop there. They might try retaliating a bit more now.
“There is no sense of justice. They have some one but there are plenty of people willing to take his place.
“He is just one of them.”