Erbil, May 2 (AKnews) - Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, is dead, US President Barack Obama has claimed.
The worlds most wanted man looks to have been killed in a US ground operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad near the capital Islamabad. His body is said to be in the hands of the military.
The news was announced by President Barack Obama from the White House where he described Bin Laden's killing as "The most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda" and said he personally authorized the attack.
Osama Bin Laden was accused of masterminding a number of attacks on civilians around the world. The most notable of which were the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York in 2001 where 3,000 people were killed.
President Obama said: "We must also reaffirm that United states is not and will never be at war against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, in fact, he slaughtered many Muslims."
A senior Obama administration official told Reuters they believe that three other men were killed in the attack including bin Laden's adult son. A woman is also said to have been killed.
The official said that bin Laden's death will be a major blow to al-Qaeda. But, there are also fears of reprisals, and the US is warning its citizens traveling in the area to be wary of "enhanced potential for anti-American violence".
On the news of his death, jubilant crowds gathered outside the White House, chanting, "USA, USA".
Former US president George W. Bush welcomed the news saying: ""The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Bin Laden had managed to evade the coalition of western forces for almost a decade, despite a US$25 million bounty on his head. It is not known why he moved down from the mountains on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he was suspected of hiding, to Abbottabad a city only 100km north of Pakistani capital, Islamabad.
President Obama said he had been given intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts last August.
"It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground," he said.
"I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.
"And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice."
A senior US official said that one helicopter was downed in the operation but no American lives were lost.
Raber Y. Aziz and Patrick Smith (AKnews)