Almost 10 years – 3,519 days – after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. forces tracked Osama bin Laden to a compound in Pakistan. A U.S. Navy SEAL team launched an assault on that compound, killing the terrorist responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 American citizens.
President Barack Obama addressed the nation last night. Here are his remarks:
Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. 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.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.
Gov. Chris Christie released this statement:
I want to commend President Obama’s Administration for its commitment and dedication to finally bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. As the former U.S. Attorney and now Governor of New Jersey, I speak for all the families of this state who have courageously endured the unspeakable and devastating consequences of terrorism.
There is hardly a life that has gone untouched in New Jersey by the horrifying assault on American soil that took place on September 11th and today, after years of waiting, justice has finally been delivered. While our fight against terrorism continues, Osama bin Laden’s reign of terror has come to an end, sending a clear signal that even in the face of immeasurable horror, democracy and freedom continue to prevail.
U. S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) issued this statement:
People across the civilized world will have great satisfaction and relief with news of the death of Osama bin Laden, one of the worst killers in the history of man. He was a ruthless terrorist responsible for a savage mission that killed thousands of innocent Americans and others around the world.
Now we must be particularly diligent and let the message get out that we we’ll do whatever is necessary to stop this kind of madness. Osama bin Laden’s disciples must know that the free world is united against terror and will fight terrorists no matter who they are, where they hide and no matter who their protectors might be. A 9/11 must never be allowed to happen again.
I commend the bravery and sacrifice of all those who have been engaged in the pursuit of terrorists and all of those who continue to fight the insanity that drives terrorists who believe they can follow in this course.
Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) issued this statement:
Confirmation of the death of Usama bin Laden is a tremendous victory in the war against terror. The brave men and women of our military forces and intelligence services are to be commended for their successful efforts.
We must continue to be vigilant now more than ever. But today we bring to a close a decade-long search of bin Laden and once again remember and honor all those lost on September 11, 2001. I also want to commend President Obama and President Bush for their efforts to bring bin Laden to justice.
New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) issued this statement:
Tonight’s news is historic and breathtaking and a reminder of America’s great perseverance.
But it is also a reminder of the pain and loss many Americans felt on Sept. 11, 2001, including many here in New Jersey.
We will never forget their pain, and we forever honor those lost and those who have fought so valiantly for our freedom in the years since.
But as the president said, this fight against terrorism and evil is not over. We must continue our vigilance if we are to protect our liberty.
Through his Twitter account, Newark Mayor Cory Booker said:
He is dead. It was necessary & just. But I won’t rejoice. I honor the memory of all terror victims & recommit 2 the difficult work of peace.
“The death of Bin Laden does not mean the death of terrorism,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Though the nation feels a sense of victory and justice, everyone in the law enforcement and intelligence community remains vigilant for terrorist retaliatory acts. The public should maintain the same attitude.”
The New Jersey State Police, in partnership with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security, this morning reached out to Islamic, Jewish and Christian groups with which they have close ties to encourage the continued sharing of information. The strength of such partnerships and intelligence ties with agencies from the federal to the local levels defines the State Police’s ability to protect New Jersey citizens.
Though there are no specific threats, the public should not be alarmed to see an increased uniformed presence at some public locations including key transportation hubs, officials said.
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