In a speech Sunday night, President Obama said the U.S. had received a lead late last year on bin Laden's whereabouts. After months of investigation, bin Laden's location was confirmed.
The president said he authorized an operation and Sunday morning (U.S. time), American forces attacked a compound near Islamabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was killed in the attack.
American forces reportedly have possession of bin Laden's body. DNA testing reportedly confirmed bin Laden's identity.
Speaking from the White House's East Room Sunday night, the president praised and thanked U.S. forces and the intelligence community.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs, a travel alert was issued due "to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given counterterrorism activity in Pakistan." Americans are urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels. Also, U.S. embassies and U.S. government facilities worldwide "remain at a heightened state of alert." The facilities may close depending on security postures.
CIA agents had been tracking couriers for bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. One courier in particular was identified as a valuable target.
That courier's identity was uncovered about four years ago. Two years later, intelligence identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother had operated.
In August 2010, a residence north of Islamabad, Pakistan, was determined to be a potential target. The residence was found in a relatively affluent area.
Surveillance found there were huge alarms at the location. The property was eight times larger than homes in other areas. It had been built in 2005.
Access to the property was restricted. Trash from the location was burned on-site.
The main structure of the compound, a three-story building, had few windows. There was a seven-foot-high wall surrounding the property. The compound had no television or telephone service.
It was determined the residence was custom-built to hide someone, the type of location that was thought to be housing bin Laden.
A small U.S. Navy SEAL team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound Sunday. The operation was considered extremely dangerous due to the high security measures of the property, as well as its location in a residential area and its proximity to Islamabad.
The operation was described as a surgical raid by a small team.
Osama bin Laden was killed, as well as two couriers, one of bin Laden's adult sons, and a woman who was used as a human shield.
One helicopter was reportedly downed, but not destroyed, in the attack. U.S. forces later intentionally destroyed the helicopter, according to the Associated Press.
The strike team was reportedly on the property for less than 40 minutes. SEALs took bin Laden's body and left in a helicopter.
Former President George W. Bush released a statement Sunday night: "Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Former President Bill Clinton released a statement Sunday night: "I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al-Qaida attacks."
Crowds gathered outside the White House after Sunday's announcement and celebrated. Jubilant crowds were also reported at Ground Zero in New York City.
Bin Laden created the al Qaeda terror network that was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S.
The U.S. has been in search of bin Laden since the attacks. He was widely believed to be in hiding along the porous Afghan/Pakistani border.
Bin Laden is suspected of fomenting earlier terrorist plots against the U.S., including the 1993 World Trade Center attack, two U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, and the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen in 2000.
Officials say the administration is ensuring bin Laden's body is being "handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition."