Thursday, 5 May 2011

Bin Laden: Publishing images poses 'US security risk'

 President Barack Obama has said publishing photos of the dead Osama Bin Laden threatens US national security.

"I think that, given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk," Mr Obama said.
The al-Qaeda leader was killed by US special forces in northern Pakistan on Monday. His body was buried at sea.
On Thursday, Mr Obama is to visit the site of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York, one of many Bin Laden claimed to have masterminded.
Mr Obama said: "It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence, as a propaganda tool. That's not who we are."
The US administration has been monitoring world reaction - amid conspiracy theories about the al-Qaeda leader following conflicting accounts given by US officials.
"There are going to be some folks who deny it. The fact of the matter is, you won't see Bin Laden walking on this Earth again," Mr Obama said.
On Thursday, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir again dismissed allegations his country's secret services had links to al-Qaeda, and said the investigation into the presence of Bin Laden in Abbottabad would reveal what failures there were.

Legality question Mr Obama's decision - revealed during an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes programme - prompted a mixed reaction from US politicians, some of whom were shown the photos.
Continue reading the main story

At the scene

The compound has had lots of people around it over the past 24 hours; the police have been moving people away sporadically, closing the area and opening it again. But while it is open, a lot of locals have come round.
Of course, they have been stunned by what has happened. They are very curious about this place, and a lot of those people are talking about these pictures. A lot of people have been saying right from the start that they still can't quite believe that Osama Bin Laden was living in their midst and that he was killed here.
They want some kind of proof, even though the Pakistani authorities have been very categorical about the fact they say he has been killed.
Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House of Representatives, said he shared the president's view.
"In my opinion there's no end served by releasing a picture of someone who has been killed," he said, quoted by CNN.
But senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the decision was a mistake.
"I know Bin Laden is dead," he said. "But the best way to protect and defend our interests overseas is to prove that fact to the rest of the world. I'm afraid the decision made today by President Obama will unnecessarily prolong this debate."
The decision came as US officials began to comb through computer hard drives, mobile phones and USB sticks found during the US Navy Seals raid on the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was living.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said Washington expected to add more names to its terrorism watch-list as a result of data seized in the raid.
Two telephone numbers and 500 euros ($745; £450) were also found stitched into Bin Laden's clothing, there in case he needed to make a quick getaway.
Critics have raised concerns about the legality of the operation, after the US revised its account to acknowledge Bin Laden was unarmed when shot dead.
But Mr Holder said Bin Laden was a lawful military target, whose killing was "an act of national self-defence".
"It was a kill-or-capture mission. He made no attempt to surrender."
Survivors Three other men and one woman died in Monday's assault, while one of the al-Qaeda leader's wives was injured.

Mardell's America

Start Quote

There is the suspicion that the US never wanted to take Bin Laden alive”
End Quote
The Pakistani military is holding the survivors of the US special forces operation. They are being kept at secret locations in the cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
The 54-year-old Bin Laden - America's most-wanted man - was buried at sea from a US aircraft carrier, say US officials.
Mr Obama, who monitored the progress of the raid from the White House, saw his approval rating jump 11 points to 57% in a New York Times/CBS News poll on Wednesday.
The compound where the operation took place is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy.
In unusually frank remarks, CIA director Leon Panetta told Time magazine: "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets."
Pakistan rejected the US suggestions it could not have been trusted in advance.
Some US lawmakers are calling for billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan to be reduced or stopped altogether.

No release of Bin Laden photos

Total view of the map of Usama Bin Ladin Operation
Reports of the operation to find al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden paint a picture of high tension, with White House officials watching the operation unfold on a live video feed.

At the climax at the end of a 40-minute firefight, one of the soldiers uttered the words "Geronimo EKIA", meaning a man visually identified as the target of the operation - Bin Laden - had been killed in action, officials said.
A high-risk operation given the green light by President Barack Obama in what his counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, termed "one of the gutsiest calls by any president in recent memory" had achieved its aim, the death of Washington's most wanted man.

The raid begins
The operation took place at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan, about 100km (62 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.
The raid happened at some time between 0000 and 0130 local time on Monday morning (1900-2030 GMT on Sunday), residents told the BBC.
At least two US helicopters, believed to have taken off from US air bases at either Jalalabad or Bagram in Afghanistan, were seen flying low over the area, causing panic among some residents.
They describe hearing three explosions several minutes apart, followed by a huge explosion that shook their houses. Most residents said they then also heard gunshots, but that the firing was brief, just a couple of minutes.
As the explosions started, they say, the lights in the area went off, going on and then off again shortly afterwards.
One report quotes some residents as saying they were commanded in Pashto - not the common language of the area - to turn their lights off, but this is unconfirmed.
It is believed that people inside the compound fired at the helicopters.
CIA director Leon Panetta said "25 people went on the ground" from two Blackhawk helicopters.
When one helicopter developed "problems", Mr Panetta said the plans changed and both helicopters set down rather than drop troops on the roof of the compound.
The US special forces, said to be from the elite Navy Seals Team Six, then breached "three or four walls" to get in the compound.
Rather than let the disabled helicopter fall into the wrong hands, the commandos blew it up.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Login Edit Feedback Can Obama Construct a Different Presidential Legacy?

"I have never seen devastation like this...this is heartbreaking...We're going to make sure you're not forgotten." -President Barack Obama on visiting cities destroyed by tornadoes.
"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Former President George W. Bush congratulating his appointee to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans.

For America, it is a shame that World War II came on the heels of near recoveries from enormous economic and environmental catastrophes. While New Deal programs had put eight million Americans, who were reeling from the Great Depression, back to work and expanded government for the Many, fresh conservation policies were being implemented due to years of drought across the Great Plains, better known as the Dust Bowl. But because of World War II and America's war mobilizing spirit, many Americans have carried the faulty notion that it ended the Great Depression. World War II also had another far reaching impact, specifically in how presidents would perceive themselves, and how Americans would view their leaders. Because of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt would always be remembered as a tremendous wartime leader and military strategist, instead of a president who helped America recover from the Great Depression through numerous public works projects. World War II would forever overshadow his conservation policies, put in place to safeguard against another environmental disaster, and his public works projects, like the Tennessee Valley Authority and Hoover Dam, that increased the quality of life for millions. To America's demise, future presidents would always be judged by popularized wartime images and a military legacy.
Therefore, it was a great relief to see President Barack Obama immediately visit tornado-ravaged Alabama. Not only did severe storms kill more than three hundred Americans- over three hundred tornadoes struck Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Virginia-but tens of thousands of homes were either destroyed or severely damaged. Entire neighborhoods have been completely eliminated, and some are claiming this "apocalyptic-like" disaster was the worst in almost a century. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Americans are without food and water and basic services like electricity, medicines and healthcare. President Obama claimed the devastation was heartbreaking, and that those affected would never be forgotten. He also declared many areas to be national and state emergencies. As people start removing twisted heaps and downed power lines, and as they begin rebuilding collapsed buildings and homes, along with still finding survivors buried beneath rubble, others are acknowledging that there needs to be improvements in areas of meteorology, Doppler radars, warning systems, and more durable structures with basements that can withstand-or lessen the fatal impact-of an EF-5 tornado with winds of 200-300 mph. Still, some scientists are concerned that recent weather patterns and tornado-genesis research points to the impact of Global Warming.
At this juncture in time, President Obama can avoid a major mistake made by former President George W. Bush (and many other presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt.) He can also begin to reverse a destructive ideological legacy that has caused the United States to commit to needless wars and useless military engagements, ones that have wasted trillions of dollars. By the time President Bush returned from his five-week getaway at his Crawford ranch and visited the death and devastation in New Orleans (Sept. 2, 2005) as a result of Hurricane Katrina, several levees had already broken days before and had drowned over two-thousand Americans. Tens of thousands of others were either still trapped in their homes or in convention and sports centers, many without food and water and other basic necessities. Under the Bush Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) had been placed under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only had it been stripped of its authority and proper funding-due to the Sept. 11 attacks and overseas wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-but President Bush appointed a close friend to run FEMA, someone without any experience in dealing with disasters. While this new FEMA was a far cry from the one of the 1990's, one that quickly responded and dealt with national emergencies, the Bush Administration scoffed at warnings from climatologists who predicted as early as 2001 of severe weather related to an abundance of greenhouse gasses.

At the same time, and as early as 2001, the Bush Administration scoffed at dire warnings over heightened hurricane activity, perhaps exacerbated by global warming related to byproducts of industrialization. The Bush Administration also continued to oppose the Kyoto Protocol signed by the United States in 1997 but never ratified. In 2003, the Bush Administration again ignored Environmental Protection Agency warnings of levees needing to be rebuilt around New Orleans. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being diverted from flood control projects to fund the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a new ill-fated war in Iraq. When the levees broke on the morning of August 29, many of the city's poor residents were trapped, since they had no transportation or means to buy bus, train or plane tickets, let alone stay in hotels far away from the flooding. National Guard troops and state aid arrived late too, as much of it was being used for military conflicts. Even as flood waters continued to engulf poor neighborhoods, transportation systems and evacuation routes proved severely inadequate. Seven days later after Hurricane Katrina made landfall a second time, and four days after two of the city's flood walls collapsed, President Bush finally visited New Orleans. Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared agitated when he had to cut short his vacation and return. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent much of her time in New York at Broadway shows and shopping.
Based on a detailed investigation of the Bush Administration's delayed response, it is now known that each member received numerous forewarnings about the category 5 hurricane and about the breach of the levees. The devastation was also played out around the clock through the mass media, as reporters were stationed throughout New Orleans and other parts that were being devastated. At meetings and briefing regarding Hurricane Katrina smashing into New Orleans and the levees being breached, it was reported that President Bush never asked any questions. Giving him the benefit of doubt, in the sense that he campaigned on a platform that promoted Compassionate Conservatism, many claim that his focus was on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, especially Iraq. Others believe that President Bush was extremely distracted and worried about his presidential legacy, and that he was anxious if he would be perceived as popular and decisive war president, much like Franklin D. Roosevelt. This is exactly the kind of destructive mentality and fatalistic legacy President Obama can start to unravel and undo by visiting areas ravaged by tornadoes. In other words, he can reverse decades of misguided presidential leadership, ones that were often militarily oriented at the expense of domestic emergencies. He can begin to symbolically fashion himself as a proactive presidential leader that deals with recovery and rebuilding efforts and healing after natural disasters.
For President Obama to do this, though, he (and Americans) will have to address how the Arsenal of Democracy has turned into a permanent and corrupt war economy, and how it has become addicted to selling superior weapons technologies to other nations while manufacturing ever more wars. Reshuffling leadership in the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agencies will not be enough. He will have to completely cleanse militant and hateful ideologies that are often based on misinformation and hysteria, versus reason and factual evidence. He will have to address how U.S. foreign policy and militarism around the world has made Americans less safe, how they have provoked attacks and retaliation, and how they have indirectly killed tens of thousands of Americans. President Obama will also have to fight hard to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and divert monies away from trillion dollar weapons budgets programs, in order to fund infrastructure projects desperately in need of repair or are durable against catastrophic events. The funds and people-power are available to make sure every American has strong and adequate housing and protection from severe weather.
While implementing viable evacuation plans and bettering transportation systems for all-whatever happened to high speed rail?-he will have to make sure every city is fitted with emergency shelters and adequate medical facilities. While paying particular attention to poor areas, President Obama should increase funding to prevent future environmental disasters and to upgrade warning systems. He might even want to eliminate tax programs and tax cuts that benefit corporations and the very wealthy, while hurting the working classes and the very poor. Government policies and a lack of funding can directly or indirectly kill Americans. Presidential legacies built on militarism, and which prioritize being a great wartime president, can do the same. In thinking back to his campaign speeches before becoming president, then Senator Obama likened himself to Dr. Martin Luther King, claiming the election was a "defining moment" and if elected he would serve with the "fierce urgency of the now!" He talked of a nation fighting too many wars and of sending too many people overseas to die or become disabled. Most people in attendance spoke of healthcare, education, employment, social concerns and hopes of recovery, rebuilding and healing.
If President Obama can become a leader that addresses natural disasters and helps prevent future environmental emergencies, unlike former President Bush and others before him, he will have accomplished "change we can believe in and live with." He will also leave behind a legacy that improves and protects the quality of life for all Americans.

Footage from inside Bin Laden's compound

Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, has said it is embarrassed by its failures on al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.
An ISI official told the BBC the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was killed by US forces on Sunday had been raided in 2003.
But the compound "was not on our radar" since then, the official said.
The government of Pakistan has categorically denied any knowledge of the raid before it took place.
No base within Pakistan was used by US forces, the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.
It went on: "US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain."
However, the ministry defended the ISI, saying: "As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009."
'Caught by surprise' Bin Laden, 54, was the founder and leader of al-Qaeda. He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.
The ISI official gave new details of the raid, saying Bin Laden's young daughter had said she saw her father shot.
He told the BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad that the compound in Abbottabad, just 100km (62 miles) from the capital, was raided when under construction in 2003.
It was believed an al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was there.
But since then, "the compound was not on our radar, it is an embarrassment for the ISI", the official said. "We're good, but we're not God."
He added: "This one failure should not make us look totally incompetent. Look at our track record. For the last 10 years, we have captured Taliban and al-Qaeda in their hundreds - more than any other countries put together."
The compound is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy - the country's equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst.
The ISI official also gave new or differing accounts of some of the events of Sunday's raid. They included:
  • There were 17-18 people in the compound at the time of the attack
  • The Americans took away one person still alive, possibly a Bin Laden son
  • Those who survived the attack included a wife, a daughter and eight to nine other children, not apparently Bin Laden's; all had their hands tied by the Americans
  • The surviving Yemeni wife said they had moved to the compound a few months ago
  • Bin Laden's daughter, aged 12 or 13, saw her father shot
The official said it was thought the Americans wanted to take away the surviving women and children but had to abandon the plan when one of the helicopters malfunctioned.

The helicopter was destroyed by the special forces unit.
The US has not commented on anyone it captured or had planned to capture, other than saying it had taken Bin Laden's body.
The ISI official said the organisation had recovered some documents from the compound.
The CIA is already said to be going through a large number of hard drives and storage devices seized in the raid.
The White House has not disclosed whether anyone has claimed the $25m (£15m) reward for leading the US to Bin Laden.
White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said there had been concern Pakistani forces would deploy to counter the US Navy Seal team conducting the raid but it had avoided any confrontation.
The ISI official said: "We were totally caught by surprise. They were in and out before we could react."
Our correspondent says residents near the compound in Abbottabad reported that Pakistani soldiers had asked them to switch off their lights an hour before the attack, but the ISI official said this was not true and that it had no advance knowledge of the raid.
Earlier, in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, President Asif Ali Zardari admitted Bin Laden "was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be".
But he denied the killing suggested Pakistan was failing in its efforts to tackle terrorism.
Mr Zardari said Pakistan had "never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media".
"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact," he said.
"Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan's war as it is America's."
Mr Brennan had said it was "inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have a support system" in Pakistan. He estimated Bin Laden had been living in the compound in Abbottabad for five or six years.
Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir tried to draw a line under the matter, saying: "Who did what is beside the point... This issue of Osama Bin Laden is history."
'Geronimo' Bin Laden was America's most wanted man but had eluded capture for more than a decade.
US officials say that after DNA tests they are "99.9%" sure that the man they shot and killed and later buried at sea was Bin Laden.

President Obama: "We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for"
US President Barack Obama watched the entire operation in real time in the White House with his national security team.
Mr Brennan said: "The minutes passed like days."
CIA director Leon Panetta narrated via a video screen from a separate Washington office, with Bin Laden given the code name Geronimo.
Mr Panetta's narration lasted several minutes. "They've reached the target... We have a visual on Geronimo... Geronimo EKIA (enemy killed in action)."
Mr Obama said: "We got him."
Bin Laden, his son Khalid, trusted personal courier Sheikh Abu Ahmed and the courier's brother were all killed, along with an unidentified woman.
Bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away a section of his skull, and was also shot in the chest.
The BBC's Andrew North in Washington says the White House is still discussing whether to release a video that was made of Bin Laden's burial from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, which some Islamic scholars have said did not conform with tradition.
Our correspondent says many people will want proof that Bin Laden is dead but the White House will be concerned about the reaction if the video, and still photographs of the body, are released.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bin Laden's death: A cathartic moment for the US

President Barack Obama is making it clear that the killing of Osama Bin Laden didn't occur by accident - and that it happened while he was in charge. He told former Presidents Bush and Clinton what he was about to announce before he made his televised White House statement. I am sure he resisted any suggestion that he had done what they had only talked about. Yet he made it clear that his administration had been determined.

The president said that on taking office he had told the CIA that the al-Qaeda chief's death or capture was to be the agency's top priority. Senior administration officials say that he chaired five meetings in March working out the plans for this attack. It's really not clear to me if the political leadership makes much difference to operations like this, but it is certainly the impression Mr Obama wants to linger.
The raid took 40 minutes. The intelligence operation took years. It started with the search for a courier, perhaps something of a misnomer for a senior aide to Bin Laden, one of the few men he trusted, according to prisoners who had been interrogated. Four years ago they uncovered his identity. The very high level of precautions the man took made them all the more suspicious. Two years ago they discovered the areas in which he operated. Last summer they identified the compound, in an affluent suburb of Islamabad. Eight times the size of similar homes in the area, it had 18ft-high walls topped with barbed wire and inner walls 7ft high. A large place, worth a million dollars, but with no phone, no internet access. The CIA believes it was purpose-built to hide Bin Laden.
The US didn't tell the Pakistanis about the compound or about the raid until it had happened. That may create some diplomatic friction.
But the mood in America is exultant. As Twitter proclaimed the death of Bin Laden, before the president spoke, crowds gathered outside the White House, waving the stars and stripes and chanting "USA, USA". This is not a country that does quiet satisfaction. This is a cathartic moment for the nation, a moment when America's military might, know how and sheer will power seem to have come together to produce a result.
At a time when there are so many doubts about America's role in the world, and so much economic gloom, there is something clear and plain about celebrating the "rubbing out" of a bad guy, an enemy. The president has been congratulated by even his opponents, and this success allows him to appear grimly resolute in pursuit of America's core interests.
Senior administration officials say Bin Laden's death is not just a symbol, it removes a charismatic and respected leader whom al-Qaeda cannot replace. The official suggests the organisation is on a downward path that will be difficult to reverse. The domestic implications for Mr Obama are in the opposite direction, but may be just as important.

Bin Laden death reminds Kenya of bombing horrors

Bombing survivor Douglas Sidialo says Bin Laden should have been put on trial
When Charles Muriuki heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed, he rushed to the memorial park which now stands on the site of what used to be the US embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

His mother was one of the more than 200 people killed when al-Qaeda operatives blew up the US mission on 7 August 1998. Like her, most of the victims were Kenyan.A similar attack took place just minutes later in neighbouring Tanzania, where the embassy in Dar es Salaam was also targeted and 11 people lost their lives.
Mr Muriuki's mother, Mary Wanjiru Muriuki, was at the Co-operative Bank, next door to the former US embassy building which was destroyed by the massive bomb.

"I had to come here and comfort her memory and tell her not to worry - everything has been taken care of, justice has prevailed," he told the BBC.But Mr Muriuki was one of just a handful of people who had gone to pay their respects at the memorial - a granite slab engraved with the victims' names.
He savoured his "victorious" moment in solitude, the small crowd at the park were oblivious to him and only took note of him when journalists interviewed him, with curious, but brief stares.
Caught in the middle.
The reaction has been largely subdued - there have been no jubilant crowds like those seen outside the White House in Washington, and in New York. Kenyans are getting on with their lives, although they are in the main relieved to hear about the death of the militant leader. Most see this as a victory for the Americans.
Some also reflect with bitterness that Kenyans were not specifically targeted by al-Qaeda - those killed were bystanders caught up a battle between a superpower and the Islamist militant network.
Local TV and radio stations have carried on with their scheduled programming, relegating the death of the al-Qaeda leader to their hourly bulletins or rebroadcasting the coverage being aired by the international media houses.

But Kenyan leaders have welcomed the news. President Mwai Kibaki described Bin Laden's killing as an act of justice for those Kenyans who lost their lives and suffered injuries in al-Qaeda's first attack on US interests. "I commend all those people behind the successful tracking down and killing of Osama Bin Laden," he said.

High alert

Douglas Sidialo lost his sight following the 1998 attack and now chairs an association for victims of the attack. He welcomed Bin Laden's death, describing it as "a reason for celebration".
But he was quick to point out that it would have been better if al-Qaeda's leader had been captured alive to face trial.Reaction on local websites is mostly positive, with US President Barack Obama receiving plaudits for bringing down the world's most wanted man.
Nearly all of those killed in the 1998 Nairobi bombing were Kenyans Interestingly, the contentious subject of compensation for the Kenya victims of the 1998 bombing is being raised again. Kenyans are also well aware that the death of the al-Qaeda leader does not end the threat of another terror attack in the country.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga welcomed Bin Laden's death but noted that the influence of al-Qaeda had spread to Kenya's neighbour Somalia, where foreign insurgents are fighting alongside militants opposed to the UN-backed government.

"Osama's death can only be positive for Kenya, but we need to have a stable government in Somalia. The loss of [al-Qaeda's] leader may first upset the movement but then it will re-group and continue," Mr Odinga said.

The country went on high alert just over a week ago after Somali militant group al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda and which last year staged an attack in Uganda killing 76 people, threatened to attack public areas and places of worship over the Easter period.

The porous border between Kenya and Somalia means the threat of an attack from insurgents affiliated to al-Qaeda operating in Somalia can never be discounted. The death of Bin Laden will not see the disappearance of the ubiquitous security checks in front of hotels, office blocks, shopping centres and recreation facilities. Indeed, security forces have been put on ever higher alert in case of revenge attacks.

Al-Qaeda's remaining leaders

After 11 September 2001, the US issued a list of suspected al-Qaeda leaders. Many have now been captured or killed, including Osama Bin Laden, while some new names have emerged. 

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Ayman al-Zawahiri, an eye surgeon who helped found the Egyptian Islamic Jihad militant group, is expected to replace Osama Bin Laden as the leader of al-Qaeda.
He was already the group's chief ideologue and was believed by some experts to have been the "operational brains" behind the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US.
Zawahiri was number two - behind only Bin Laden - in the 22 "most wanted terrorists" list announced by the US government in 2001 and continues to have a $25m bounty on his head.
Zawahiri was reportedly last seen in the eastern Afghan town of Khost in October 2001, and went into hiding after a US-led coalition overthrew the Taliban.

He was thought to be hiding in the mountainous regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with the help of sympathetic local tribes. However, the killing of Bin Laden on 1 May 2011 in Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, suggests this may not be the case. His wife and children were reportedly killed in a US air strike in late 2001.
Zawahiri was for a time al-Qaeda's most prominent spokesman, appearing in 40 videos and audiotapes since 2003 - most recently in April 2011 - as the group tried to radicalise and recruit Muslims worldwide.
He has also been indicted in the US for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, and was sentenced to death in Egypt in absentia for his activities with Islamic Jihad during the 1990s.

Abu Yahya al-Libi

Abu Yahya al-Libi, also known as Hasan Qayid and Yunis al-Sahrawi, is thought to have been a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) before he allied himself to Osama Bin Laden.
He has since emerged as al-Qaeda's leading theologian, and most visible face on video, surpassing Ayman al-Zawahri in recent years.

Libi is believed to have spent five years as a religious student in Mauritania in the 1990s.
He claims he was captured by Pakistani forces in 2002 and then sent to the US military airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan, from where he escaped in July 2005 along with three other al-Qaeda members.
Al-Qaeda has named Libi as a field commander in Afghanistan, though he has styled himself in his many videos as a theological scholar, and spoken on a variety of global issues of importance to the group.

Khalid al-Habib

Khalid al-Habib, thought to be either Egyptian or Moroccan, was identified in a November 2005 video as al-Qaeda's field commander in south-east Afghanistan, while Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was named as its commander in the south-west.

Habib seems to have assumed overall command after the latter's capture in 2006.
He was described as al-Qaeda's "military commander" in July 2008.
US military officials say he oversees al-Qaeda's "internal" operations in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.
Habib may be operating under an assumed identity, according to some analysts. One of his noms de guerre is believed to be Khalid al-Harbi.

Adnan el Shukrijumah

In August 2010, the FBI said Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah had taken over as chief of al-Qaeda's "external operations council". Having lived for more than 15 years in the US, it is the first time a leader intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks for the group outside Afghanistan.

Such a position - once held by the alleged mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - necessitates regular contact with al-Qaeda's senior leadership and military commanders, and makes him likely to be killed or captured.

Born in Saudi Arabia, Shukrijumah moved to the US when his father, a Muslim cleric, took up a post at a mosque in Brooklyn. They later moved to Florida.
In the late 1990s, he became convinced that he had to participate in jihad in place like Chechnya, and left for training camps in Afghanistan.
Shukrijumah has been named in a US federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. He is also suspected of having played a role in plotting al-Qaeda attacks in Panama, Norway and the UK.

Atiyah Abd al-Rahman

A Libyan, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman joined Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager in the 1980s.

Since then, he has gained considerable stature in al-Qaeda as an explosives expert and Islamic scholar.
He retreated with Bin Laden to the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border region in late 2001, and has since become a link to other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East and North Africa.
In June 2006 the US military recovered a letter he wrote to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian who ran al-Qaeda in Iraq, chastising him for alienating rival insurgent groups and attacking Shia Muslims. It warned Zarqawi that he could be replaced if he did not change his ways.
He is said to have successfully brokered a formal alliance with the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), which changed its name to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Saif al-Adel

An Egyptian in his late 30s, Saif al-Adel is the nom de guerre of a former Egyptian army colonel, Muhamad Ibrahim Makkawi. He travelled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight Soviet forces with the mujahideen.
Adel was once Osama Bin Laden's security chief, and assumed many of military commander Mohammed Atef's duties after his death in a US air strike in November 2001.

He is suspected of involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa, training the Somali fighters who killed 18 US servicemen in Mogadishu in 1993, and instructing some of the 11 September 2001 hijackers.
In 1987, Egypt accused Adel of trying to establish a military wing of the militant Islamic group al-Jihad, and of trying to overthrow the government.
Following the invasion of Afghanistan, Adel is believed to have fled to Iran with Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Saad Bin Laden, a son of the late al-Qaeda leader. They were allegedly then held under house arrest by the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Iran has never acknowledged their presence.
Several letters and internet statements bearing Adel's name or aliases have been released since 2002, leading analysts to believe he is still in contact with al-Qaeda's leaders in the region.
Recent reports say Adel may have been released and made his way to northern Pakistan, along with Saad Bin Laden.

 Mustafa Hamid
Mustafa Hamid, the father-in-law of Saif al-Adel, served as instructor in tactics at an al-Qaeda camp near

Jalalabad and is the link between the group and Iran's government, according to the US. 
After the fall of the Taliban, he is said to have negotiated the safe relocation of several senior al-Qaeda members and their families to Iran. In mid-2003, Hamid was arrested by the Iranian authorities.

Saad Bin Laden

Saad Bin Laden, one of Osama Bin Laden's sons, has been involved in al-Qaeda activities. In late 2001, he helped his relatives flee to Iran.

He made key decisions for al-Qaeda and was part of a small group of al-Qaeda members involved in managing the organisation from Iran, according to US officials. He was arrested by Iranian authorities in early 2003, but recent reports say he may have been released and made his way to northern Pakistan.
US officials said an "adult son" of Osama Bin Laden's was killed alongside him in the raid in Abbottabad in May 2011. It is not known if it was Saad.

Hamza al-Jawfi

Hamza al-Jawfi, a Gulf Arab, is believed by some to have become al-Qaeda's external operations chief after the death of Abu Ubaida al-Masri from hepatitis C in December 2007. However, the FBI has said this year that Adnan el Shukrijumah had assumed this role.

Matiur Rehman

Matiur Rehman is a Pakistani militant who has been identified as al-Qaeda's planning chief. He is said to have

been an architect of the foiled "liquid bomb" plot to explode passenger aircraft over the Atlantic in 2006.

Abu Khalil al-Madani

Little is known about Abu Khalil al-Madani, who was identified as a member of al-Qaeda's Shura council in

a July 2008 video. His name suggests he is Saudi.

Midhat Mursi

An Egyptian chemist, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Omar has allegedly overseen al-Qaeda's efforts to develop chemical and biological weapons.

Also known as Abu Khabab, he left Egypt to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. A fellow mujahideen says he was slow to join al-Qaeda because he disagreed with the group's central strategy and was not an ally of Ayman al-Zawahiri, but changed his mind in part because he needed the money.
Mursi was a trainer at al-Qaeda's Derunta camp in Afghanistan when it was set up in the late 1990s.
In addition to teaching courses on conventional explosives, he wrote manuals on how to make toxic weapons and conducted a variety of experiments as part of Project al-Zabadi, or "curdled milk".
The US believes he may be living in Pakistan, although other reports suggest he escaped to the Pankisi Gorge in the Caucasus region in 2001. US intelligence officials do not believe he occupies a senior leadership position.

Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso

Fahd al-Quso is wanted in connection with the 2000 bomb attack on the USS Cole in Aden, which resulted in the deaths of 17 US sailors.

In April 2003, he was being held by the Yemeni authorities in connection with the attack when he escaped. He was recaptured 11 months later, but was released from prison early in 2007 despite US protests.
It was thought that he was still in Yemen, but reports say he may have been killed by a US drone strike in September in North Waziristan, Pakistan.

Adam Gadahn

Adam Gadahn, a US citizen who grew up in California, has emerged as a high-profile propagandist for al-Qaeda, appearing in a string of videos.

After converting to Islam as a teenager, he moved in 1998 to Pakistan and married an Afghan refugee. Gadahn performed translations for al-Qaeda and become associated with al-Qaeda's captured field commander, Abu Zubaydah. He is also thought to have later trained at a militant camp in Afghanistan.
In 2004, the US justice department named him as one of seven al-Qaeda operatives planning imminent attacks on the US. Shortly afterwards, he appeared in a video on behalf of al-Qaeda, identifying himself as "Azzam the American".

In September 2006, he appeared in a video with Ayman al-Zawahiri and exhorted his fellow Americans to convert to Islam and support al-Qaeda.The next month, Gadahn become the first US citizen to be charged with treason since World War II. The indictment said he had "knowingly adhered to an enemy of the United States... with intent to betray the United States". A $1m bounty was placed on his head.

Analysts say Gadahn is not part of al-Qaeda's senior leadership, and does not hold any operational or ideological significance.

Nasser Abdul Karim al-Wuhayshi

Wuhayshi, a former aide to Osama Bin Laden, is the leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which was formed in 2009 in a merger between two offshoots of al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
US counter-terrorism officials have said it is the "most active operation franchise" of al-Qaeda beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Wuhayshi, who is from the southern Yemeni governorate of al-Baida, spent time in religious institutions before travelling to Afghanistan in the late 1990s.
He fought at the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, before escaping over the border into Iran, where he was eventually arrested. He was extradited to Yemen in 2003.
In February 2006, Wuhayshi and 22 other suspected al-Qaeda members managed to escape from a prison in Sanaa. Among them were also Jamal al-Badawi, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, and Qasim al-Raymi, al-Qaeda's in the Arabian Peninsula's military commander.
After their escape from prison, Wuhayshi and Raymi are said to have overseen the formation of al-Qaeda in Yemen, which took in both new recruits and Arab fighters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The group claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks that killed six Western tourists before being linked to the assault on the US embassy in Sanaa in 2008, in which 10 Yemeni guards and four civilians died.
Four months later, Wuhayshi announced in a video the merger of the al-Qaeda offshoots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia to form "al-Qaeda of Jihad Organisation in the Arabian Peninsula".
The group's first operation outside Yemen was carried out in Saudi Arabia in August 2009 against the kingdom's security chief, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, though he survived.
It later said it was behind the attempt to blow up a US passenger jet as it flew into Detroit on 25 December 2009. A Nigerian man charged in relation with the incident said AQAP operatives had trained him.

Anwar al-Awlaki

A radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, Awlaki has been linked to a series of attacks and plots across the world - from 11 September 2001 to the shootings at Fort Hood in November 2009.
Since going on the run in Yemen in December 2007, Awlaki's overt endorsement of violence as a religious duty in his sermons and on the internet is thought to have inspired new recruits to Islamist militancy.

US officials say he is also a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an offshoot of the militant network in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and helped recruit Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of attempting to blow up an airliner as it flew into Detroit on 25 December 2009.
Following the failed attack, President Barack Obama took the extraordinary step of authorising the Central Intelligence Agency to kill him. Soon afterwards, Awlaki survived an air strike in southern Yemen.
Awlaki is currently thought to be hiding in the mountainous governorates of Shabwa and Marib, under the protection of the large and powerful Awalik tribe, to which he belongs. His family say he is not a terrorist.

Abou Mossab Abdelwadoud

A former university science student and infamous bomb-maker, Abdelwadoud is the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

He became leader of the head of the Algerian Islamist militant organisation, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), in mid-2004, succeeding Nabil Sahraoui after he was killed in a major army operation.
After university in 1995, Abdelwadoud joined the Armed Islamist Group (GIA), a precursor to the GSPC which shared its aim of establishing an Islamic state in Algeria. He is said to have become a member of the GSPC in 1998.
Abdelwadoud, whose real name is Abdelmalek Droukdel, was one of the signatories to a statement in 2003 announcing an alliance with al-Qaeda.In September 2006, the GSPC said it had joined forces with al-Qaeda, and in January 2007 it announced it had changed its name to "al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb" to reflect its allegiance. Abdelwadoud said he had consulted Ayman al-Zawahiri about the group's plans.

Three months later, 33 people were killed in bomb attacks on official buildings in Algiers. Abdelwadoud allegedly supervised the operation. That December, twin car bombs killed at least 37 people in the capital.
The ambitions of the group's leadership widened, and it subsequently carried out a number of attacks across North Africa. It also declared its intention to attack Western targets and send jihadis to Iraq. Westerners have also been kidnapped and held for ransom; some have been killed.

US forces kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan

The death of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden near Islamabad has important implications for relations between Pakistan and the US.

Pakistan has been the epicentre of the battle against al-Qaeda in its global jihad.
It is the West's most important ally in this struggle and, so far as the CIA is concerned, it has also proved to be the most difficult ally.
The Pakistanis have consistently denied ever having any links to al-Qaeda or their former hosts in Afghanistan, the Taliban, whose leadership has had sanctuary in Pakistan since 2002.
And yet the discovery that Osama Bin Laden had been living in a large, custom-built compound close to Pakistan's military academy once again raises an obvious question.What did the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military - the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) - know and when did it know it?
The compound is reported to have had high walls, barbed wire and security cameras. Who built it? Did none of the local authorities, including the police and the military academy, never have their suspicions?
Crisis point
Following 9/11, Pakistan did arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged to have been the "principal architect" of the attack.
Start Quote
The US believes that although al-Qaeda has been largely driven from Afghanistan, the job of hardening Afghanistan against a return of al-Qaeda has yet to be completed”
End Quote

But since 2005, the US authorities have become increasingly persuaded that the ISI has taken an "a la carte" approach to Islamist terrorist groups - picking and choosing which group to support.
The choice has depended on how the ISI has seen each group serve its national interest.
Crudely, this boils down to whether they act as a hedge against the growing regional influence of Pakistan's long term foe - India.
If the US assessment is that there were elements within the ISI who did know where Osama Bin Laden was hiding and, moreover, did nothing about it, US relations with Pakistan - already severely strained - will reach crisis point.

Billions in aid is sent every year to Pakistan by the US, UK and other Western countries.
Sanctuary. The fact that Osama Bin Laden has apparently been living for years under the nose of the Pakistan military also revives the question that has increasingly dogged the US-led coalition in Afghanistan: Why are we still fighting in Afghanistan when it is Pakistan from where the Taliban insurgency is being directed? The extent to which Pakistan has approved specific US requests for assistance against al-Qaeda and other extremists is one of the key tests President Barack Obama set in assessing this July whether he can safely start to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Pakistan has allowed the US secret bases in Pakistan and to launch drone attacks against specific targets. These have more than tripled under President Obama.

However, the US believes that although al-Qaeda has been largely driven from Afghanistan, the job of hardening Afghanistan against a return of al-Qaeda has yet to be completed.
The Taliban regards the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a "puppet" of the West and have
demanded all Western forces leave.

There are now two main al-Qaeda offshoots which have found sanctuary in the tribal lands of Pakistan's border with Afghanistan. The Haqqani network is responsible for many attacks against soldiers in Afghanistan and suicide bombings there, and Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the multiple attacks in Mumbai, India, in 2008.
The US believes that as long as the Afghan Taliban leadership and the Haqqani network have sanctuaries in Pakistan, the insurgency inside Afghanistan is likely to continue.

There is also the Pakistan Taliban - against which the Pakistan authorities have moved because it has attacked Pakistani targets in pursuit of its goal of an Islamist government - and the Afghan Taliban, against which the Pakistan authorities have barely moved, and whose fighters the CIA believe the ISI have helped train.

US forces kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan

More details are emerging of how al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.
The map shows the Area where operation was held 
 The compound is a few hundred metres from the the Pakistan Military Academy, an elite military training centre, which is Pakistan's equivalent to Britain's Sandhurst, according to the BBC's M Ilyas Khan who visited the area.Earlier reports put the distance at about 200 yards (182 metres). Pakistan's military says the compound is 4km (2.4 miles) away from the academy.But it lies well within Abbottabad's military cantonment - it is likely the area would have had a constant and significant military presence and checkpoints.

Pakistan's army chief is a regular visitor to the academy for graduation parades. The operation began at about 2230 (1730 GMT) and lasted about 45 minutes, military sources told BBC Urdu. Two or three helicopters were seen flying low over the area. Witnesses say it caused panic among local residents.

But an IT consultant living in Abbottabad posted on twitter at about 0100 (2100 GMT) that a helicopter was hovering above Abbottabad. It is thought that he unknowingly tweeted details of what he could hear of the operation as it happened.Barbed wire and cameras The target of the operation was the compound, which had at its centre a large three-storey building. When the helicopters landed outside, men emerged from the aircraft. The raid was conducted by a US Special Forces team of Navy Seals. People living in the area, known as Thanda Choha, told BBC Urdu that they were commanded in Pashto to switch off their lights and not to leave their homes.

Shortly afterwards residents said they heard shots being fired and the sound of heavy firearms.
At some point in the operation one of the helicopters crashed, either from technical failure or having been hit by gunfire from the ground. The compound was about 3,000 sq yards in size but people from the area told the BBC that it was surrounded by 14ft-high walls, so not much could be seen of what was happening inside.

The walls were topped by barbed wire and contained cameras. There were two security gates at the house and no phone or internet lines running into the compound, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

Waziristan Mansion'
The compound where the battle took place

After the operation witnesses said all they could see was flames snaking up from inside the house.The forces conducting the operation later emerged from the compound, possibly with somebody who had been inside, local residents told the BBC.
They said that women and children were also living in the compound.One local resident told the BBC Urdu service that the house had been built by a Pashtun man about 10 or 12 years ago and he said that none of the locals were aware of who was really living there.

According to one local journalist, the house was known in the area as Waziristani Haveli - or Waziristan Mansion.
The journalist said it was owned by people from Waziristan, the mountainous and inhospitable semi-autonomous tribal area close to the Afghan border, which until now most observers believed to be the hiding place for Bin Laden.

This house was in a residential district of Abbottabad's suburbs called Bilal Town and known to be home to a number of retired military officers from the area.Intelligence officials in the US are quoted by AP as saying that the house was custom-built to harbour a major "terrorist" figure.It says CIA experts analysed whether it could be anyone else but they decided it was almost certainly Bin Laden.Pakistani troops arrived at the scene after the attack and took over the area.

BBC correspondents say US troops were probably operating out of a base used by US Marines in Tarbela Ghazi, an area close to Abbottabad.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden dead - Barack Obama

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has been killed by US forces in Pakistan, President Barack Obama has said. 
Bin Laden was top of the US "most wanted" list
Bin Laden was killed in a ground operation outside Islamabad based on US intelligence, the first lead for which emerged last August.Mr Obama said after "a firefight", US forces took possession of his body.
Bin Laden was accused of being behind a number of atrocities, including the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.He was top of the US' "most wanted" list.

Mr Obama said it was "the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to defeat al-Qaeda".
The US has put its embassies around the world on alert, warning Americans of the possibility of al-Qaeda reprisal attacks for Bin Laden's killing.

Crowds gathered outside the White House in Washington DC, chanting "USA, USA" after the news emerged. A US official quoted by Associated Press news agency said Bin Laden's body had been buried at sea, although this has not been confirmed. Compound raided Bin Laden had approved the 9/11 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died.


How will al-Qaeda react? In the short term, the Obama administration is already bracing itself for possible revenge attacks. But for many the bigger question is whether, in the longer run, al-Qaeda can survive.

Since the start of the year, some experts have argued that the uprisings in the Arab world have rendered it irrelevant. They will see Bin Laden's death as confirming the trend. Perhaps.
But the root causes of radical Islam - the range of issues that enabled al-Qaeda to recruit disaffected young Muslims to its cause - remain, for the most part, unaddressed. The death of Bin Laden will strike at the morale of the global jihad, but is unlikely to end it.

He evaded the forces of the US and its allies for almost a decade, despite a $25m bounty on his head.
Mr Obama said he had been briefed last August on a possible lead to Bin Laden's whereabouts.
"It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground," Mr Obama 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 authorised an operation to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice," the president said.On Sunday a team of US forces undertook the operation in Abbottabad, 100km (62 miles) north-east of Islamabad.
After a "firefight" Bin Laden was killed and his body taken by US forces, the president said.
Mr Obama said "no Americans were harmed".
Giving more details of the operation, a senior US official said a small US team had conducted the raid in about 40 minutes.
 "After a firefight, US forces killed Osama Bin Laden and took custody of his body"It had 4m-6m (12ft-18ft) walls, was eight times larger than other homes in the area and was valued at "several million dollars", though it had no telephone or internet
connection.The US official said that intelligence had been tracking a "trusted courier" of Bin Laden for many years. The courier's identity was discovered four years ago, his area of operation two years ago and then, last August, his residence in Abbottabad was found, triggering the start of the mission.Another senior US official said that no intelligence had been shared with any country, including Pakistan, ahead of the raid."Only a very small group of people inside
our own government knew of this operation in advance," the official said.The Abbottabad residence is just 700m (800 yards) from the Pakistan Military Academy - the country's equivalent of West Point.The senior US official warned that the possibility of revenge attacks had now created "a heightened threat to the homeland and to US citizens and facilities abroad".
One helicopter was lost due to "technical failure". The team destroyed it and left in its other aircraft.
Three other men were killed in the raid - one of Bin Laden's sons and two couriers - the official said, adding that one woman was also killed when she was used as "a shield" and two other women were injured.
The size and complexity of the structure in Abbottabad had "shocked" US officials.
But the official added that "the loss of Bin Laden puts the group on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse".He said Bin Laden's probable successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was "far less charismatic and not as well respected within the organisation", according to reports from captured al-Qaeda operatives.
'Momentous achievement'Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Bin Laden had "paid for his actions".
A Pakistani government statement said Bin Laden's death "illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism".Former US President George W Bush described the news as a "momentous achievement".
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," Mr Bush said in a statement.
BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says that, to many in the West, Bin Laden became the embodiment of global terrorism, but to others he was a hero, a devout Muslim who fought two world superpowers in the name of jihad.
The son of a wealthy Saudi construction family, Bin Laden grew up in a privileged world. But soon after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan he joined the mujahideen there and fought alongside them with his Arab followers, a group that later formed the nucleus for al-Qaeda.
After declaring war on America in 1998, Bin Laden is widely believed to have been behind the bombings of US embassies in East Africa, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000 and the attacks on New York and Washington.

Bin Laden killed: How it happened

Details are emerging of how al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.

It is just 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy, an elite military training centre, which correspondents say is Pakistan's equivalent to Britain's Sandhurst military training academy. The compound lies within Abbottabad's military cantonment - it is likely the area would have had a constant and significant military presence and checkpoints.The operation began at about 2230 (1730GMT) and lasted around 45 minutes, military sources told BBC Urdu. Two or three helicopters were seen flying low over the area. Witnesses say it caused panic among local residents.Barbed wire The target of the operation was the compound, which had at its centre a large three-storey building.

When the helicopters landed outside, men emerged from the aircraft and spoke to locals in Pashto.
People living in an area known as Tanda Choha were told to to switch off their lights and not to leave their homes. Shortly afterwards residents heard shots being fired and the sound of heavy firearms.
At some point in the operation one of the helicopters crashed after being hit by gunfire from the ground, reports say. Locals residents say that helicopter wreckage is visible in the area now.

The compound was about 3,000 sq yards but people from the area told the BBC that it was surrounded by walls 14 feet high, so not much could be seen of what was happening inside.
The walls were topped by barbed wire and had cameras. There were two security gates at the house and no phone or internet lines running into the compound, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
After the operation witnesses said all they could see was flames snaking up from inside the house.
The forces conducting the operation later emerged from the compound, possibly with somebody who had been inside. They said that women and children were also living in the compound. One local resident told the BBC Urdu service that the house was built by a Pashtun man about 10 or 12 years ago and he said that none of the locals were aware of who was really living there.

Intelligence officials in the US are quoted by AP as saying that the house was custom-built to harbour a major "terrorist" figure. It says CIA experts analysed whether it could be anyone else but they decided it was almost certainly Bin Laden. Pakistani troops arrived at the scene after the attack was over and they have now completely taken over the area. BBC correspondents say US troops were probably operating out of a base used by US Marines in Tarbela Ghazi, an area close to Abbottabad.