On May 1, 2011, American soldiers killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at his compound near Islamabad, Pakistan. Intelligence officials believe bin Laden was responsible for many deadly acts of terrorism, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. He had been on the FBI’s “most wanted” list for more than a decade.
OSAMA BIN LADEN: EARLY LIFE
Osama bin Laden was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 1957 or 1958. He was the 17th of 52 children born to Mohammed bin Laden, a Yemeni immigrant who owned the largest construction company in the Saudi kingdom. Young Osama had a privileged, cosseted upbringing. His siblings were educated in the West and went to work for his father’s company (by then an enormous conglomerate that distributed consumer goods like Volkswagen cars and Snapple beverages across the Middle East), but Osama bin Laden stayed close to home. He went to school in Jiddah, married young and, like many Saudi men, joined the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
OSAMA BIN LADEN: THE PAN-ISLAMIST IDEA
For bin Laden, Islam was more than just a religion: It shaped his political beliefs and influenced every decision he made. While he was at college in the late 1970s, he became a follower of the radical pan-Islamist scholar Abdullah Azzam, who believed that all Muslims should rise up in jihad, or holy war, to create a single Islamic state. This idea appealed to the young bin Laden, who resented what he saw as a growing Western influence on Middle Eastern life.
In 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan; soon afterward, Azzam and bin Laden traveled to Peshawar, a Pakistani city on the border with Afghanistan, to join the resistance. They did not become fighters themselves, but they used their extensive connections to win financial and moral support for the mujahideen (the Afghan rebels). They also encouraged young men to come from all over the Middle East to be a part of the Afghan jihad. Their organization, called the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) served as a global recruitment network–it had offices in places as far away as Brooklyn and Tucson, Arizona–and provided the migrant soldiers, known as “Afghan Arabs,” with training and supplies. Most important, it showed bin Laden and his associates that it was possible to put pan-Islamism into practice.
Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1:00 am PKT (20:00 UTC, May 1) by United States Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six). The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. In addition to DEVGRU, participating units included the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and CIA operatives. The raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was launched from Afghanistan. U.S. military officials said that after the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden’s body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried him at sea within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Islamic tradition. According to a Pakistani official, the United States had direct evidence that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, knew of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
Al-Qaeda confirmed the death on May 6 with posts made on militant websites, vowing to avenge the killing. Other Pakistani militant groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, also vowed retaliation against the U.S. and against Pakistan for not preventing the operation. The raid was supported by over 90% of the American public, was welcomed by the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and a large number of governments, but was condemned by others, including two-thirds of the Pakistani public. Legal and ethical aspects of the killing, such as his not being taken alive despite being unarmed, were questioned by others, including Amnesty International. Also controversial was the decision to not release any photographic or DNA evidence of bin Laden’s death to the public. The Pakistani Abbottabad Commission Report was leaked to Al Jazeera on July 8, 2013.
The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden – June 11, 2013
From Mark Bowden, the preeminent chronicler of our military and special forces, comes The Finish, a gripping account of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With access to key sources, Bowden takes us inside the rooms where decisions were made and on the ground where the action unfolded.
After masterminding the attacks of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden managed to vanish. Over the next ten years, as Bowden shows, America found that its war with al Qaeda—a scattered group of individuals who were almost impossible to track—demanded an innovative approach. Step by step, Bowden describes the development of a new tactical strategy to fight this war—the fusion of intel from various agencies and on-the-ground special ops. After thousands of special forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right weapon to go after bin Laden had finally evolved. By Spring 2011, intelligence pointed to a compound in Abbottabad; it was estimated that there was a 50/50 chance that Osama was there. Bowden shows how three strategies were mooted: a drone strike, a precision bombing, or an assault by Navy SEALs. In the end, the President had to make the final decision. It was time for the finish.
Navy SEAL: I fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden
A former Navy SEAL has come forward to claim that he fired the fatal shot that hit Osama bin Laden in the forehead, according to the Washington Post.
Robert O’Neill, 38, told the Post in a recent interview that he was the one who fired the shot that killed the al Qaeda leader during the U.S. military’s raid on bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011.
Details of that dramatic mission were revealed in the book “No Easy Day,” written by a Navy SEAL under the pseudonym Mark Owen. Owen, who recounted the events of the raid in an interview with “60 Minutes,” has come under fire for not first clearing the book with military officials.
According to the Post, O’Neill, a highly decorated veteran from Montana, was poised to go public with his story next week but his identity was already disclosed by a website run by Navy SEALS who were apparently irked that he was about to reveal his role in the mission.
O’Neill had previously recounted the mission for a 2013 Esquire magazine article that did not name him.
O’Neill told the newspaper that he only decided to go public with his identity after meeting family members of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“The families told me it helped bring them some closure,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill was also among the Navy SEALS who came to the rescue of Richard Phillips, the ship captain who was kidnapped after his Maersk Alabama cargo vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009.
According to a bio on a speakers bureau that has employed O’Neill, the veteran has received more than 50 military honors, including two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars with Valor and three Presidential Unit citations.