Updated at 7:42 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON - During a daring night-time raid in Pakistan, elite American forces slid down ropes from helicopters onto the compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding and shot him in the head and the chest, U.S. officials revealed details Monday.
Bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was then quickly buried at sea, in a stunning finale to a furtive decade on the run. Obama administration officials said DNA evidence confirmed the death.
After the gunfire, U.S. forces swept the fortified compound in Pakistan and left with a trove of hard drives, DVDs and other documents that officials said the CIA was already poring over. The hope: clues leading to his presumed successor, al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"This is a good day for America," President Obama said at a previously planned White House ceremony Monday afternoon. "Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden."
Acting on intelligence that bin Laden was holed up in a compound in the city of Abbottabad, Mr. Obama ordered a risky, unilateral mission to capture or kill the al Qaeda leader on foreign soil. His counterterror chief, John Brennan, said Monday that Mr. Obama had monitored the raid from the White House Situation Room and expressed relief that elite forces had finally gotten bin Laden without losing any more American lives.
White House: We would have taken bin Laden alive
"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time in the lives of the people who were assembled here," Brennan said from the White House. "The minutes passed like days."
Senior U.S. officials said bin Laden was killed toward the end of the firefight, which took place in a building at a compound north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. His body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson and then placed into the North Arabian Sea.
Bin Laden was shot twice, a senior administration official told CBS News correspondent Bill Plante. One shot hit him in the head, and the other hit him in the chest. Bin Laden didn't have a weapon in his hand, which was previously reported, Plante reports.
The official said two dozen SEALs in night-vision goggles dropped into the high-walled compound in Pakistan by sliding down ropes from helicopters in the overnight raid.
The SEALs retrieved bin Laden's body and turned the remaining detainees over to Pakistani authorities.
Traditional Islamic procedures for handling the remains were followed, the officials said, including washing the corpse, placing it in a white sheet.
The dramatic developments came just months ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the hijacked-airliner assaults on the United States. Those attacks took nearly 3,000 lives, led the U.S. into war in Afghanistan and Iraq and forever pierced the notion that the most powerful country on earth could not be hit on such a ferocious scale.
Islamic scholars criticize bin Laden's sea burial
Expressions of relief gave way to questions about how bin Laden was able to live in a Pakistani city overflowing with military and intelligence personnel and grim warnings from U.S. officials of potential retaliation for bin Laden's killing. Indeed, a top al Qaeda ideologue vowed revenge and said the Islamic holy war against the West was far from over.
The administration was investigating who within Pakistan provided support to bin Laden to allow him to live, remarkably, in a fortified compound in a military town, not tucked away in a cave as often rumored. Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan's security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied it, and did so again.
Brennan said one of bin Laden's wives was used as a human shield to try to protect him and she was killed, too, as a result. Brennan, speaking of bin Laden, said that revealed "the nature of the individual he was."
The senior administration official later told Plante that the woman who died was not one of bin Laden's wives. The official also said one of bin Laden's wives was wounded.
The American forces killed bin Laden during a daring raid early Monday, Pakistan time, capping a search that spanned nearly a decade. Bin Laden was shot in the head during a firefight and then quickly buried at sea. White House officials were mulling the merits, consequences and appropriateness of releasing a photo of the slain bin Laden but said that no one should have any doubts regardless.
Clinton: Killing shows "you cannot defeat us"
Senior administration officials said the DNA testing alone offered near 100 percent certainty. Photo analysis by the CIA, confirmation by a woman believed to be one of bin Laden's wives on site, and matching physical features like bin Laden's height all helped confirmed the identification.
"We are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can't do," Mr. Obama said of the news, which was bound to lift his political standing and help define his presidency. Mr. Obama's administration will now be asked what comes next for al Qaeda, for the U.S. war in Afghanistan and for America's strained relations with its Pakistani ally.
U.S. officials warned that the campaign against terrorism was not nearly over and that the threat of deadly retaliation against the United States and its allies was real. However, the government said it had no specific or credible threat to share with the American public.
"The fight continues and we will never waver," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at the State Department. Her comments had echoes of President George W. Bush's declaration nearly a decade ago, when al Qaeda attacks against America led to war in Afghanistan and changed the way Americans viewed their own safety.
(Watch at left)
Turning to deliver a direct message to bin Laden's followers, she vowed: "You cannot wait us out."
U.S. Capitol Police put on a conspicuous show of force Monday morning with 10 vehicles amassed near Constitution Avenue with their lights flashing and doors and trunks open. Officers armed with automatic weapons kept watch on every vehicle that passed.
The Sunday operation was not the first opportunity for the U.S. to eliminate bin Laden.
In late 2009, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reported on "60 Minutes" that both Mr. Bush and President Clinton were told on "a couple of occasions" before the Sept. 11 attacks that covert CIA officers had tracked bin Laden to a remote compound in Afghanistan.
An unarmed Predator drone was monitoring him, and U.S. forces and Afghan allies could have "had access" to bin Laden, according to Henry Crumpton, who at the time headed the CIA's hunt for bin Laden. Both presidents refused to authorize operations to capture or kill bin Laden.
Three adult males were also killed in the raid, including one of bin Laden's sons, Khalid. Another of bin Laden's sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al Qaeda. Also killed were two of bin Laden's al Qaeda facilitators, including one who was apparently listed as the owner of the residence, Brennan said, and two other women were injured.
Mr. Obama himself had delivered the news of bin Laden's killing in a dramatic White House statement late Sunday. "Justice has been done," he declared.
Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of bin Laden.The military operation that ended his life took mere minutes.
(Watch at left video showing Osama bin Laden's compound near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad the morning after he was killed during a U.S. military operation.)
U.S. helicopters ferried about two dozen troops from Navy SEAL Team Six, a top military counter-terrorism unit, into the compound identified by the CIA as bin Laden's hideout and back out again in less than 40 minutes. Bin Laden was shot after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault, officials said.