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.
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 missionthe 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.
"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
Osama bin Laden's body buried at sea
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
The compound is about a half-mile from the Kakul Military Academy, an army-run institution for top officers and one of several military installations in the bustling, hill-ringed town of around 400,000 people.
Bin Laden's death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al Qaeda was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.
"We have rid the world of the most infamous terrorist of our time," CIA Director Leon Panetta declared to employees of the agency in a memo Monday morning.
Retaliatory attacks against the U.S. and Western targets could come from members of al Qaeda's core branch in the tribal areas of Pakistan, al Qaeda franchises in other countries or radicalized individuals in the U.S. with al Qaeda sympathies, according to a Homeland Security Department intelligence alert issued Sunday and obtained by The Associated Press.
As news of bin Laden's death spread, hundreds of people cheered and waved American flags at ground zero in New York, the site where al Qaeda hijacked jets blasted the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Thousands celebrated all night outside the White House gates.
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Many people said they were surprised that bin Laden had finally been found and killed. John Gocio, a doctor from Arkansas who was gathering what details he could from TV screens at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, marveled: "After such a long time, you kind of give up and say, `Well, that's never going to happen."'
The greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. is now considered to be the al Qaeda franchise in Yemen, far from al Qaeda's core in Pakistan. The Yemen branch almost took down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 and nearly detonated explosives aboard two U.S. cargo planes last fall. Those operations were carried out without any direct involvement from bin Laden.
The few fiery minutes in Abbottabad followed years in which U.S. officials struggled to piece together clues that ultimately led to bin Laden, according to an account provided by senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
Based on statements given by U.S. detainees since the 9/11 attacks, they said, intelligence officials have long known that bin Laden trusted one al Qaeda courier in particular, and they believed he might be living with him in hiding.
Four years ago, the United States learned the man's identity, which officials did not disclose, and then about two years later, they identified areas of Pakistan where he operated. Last August, the man's residence was found, officials said.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Mr. Obama wanted to pursue action, a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, the president led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
(At left, Randall Pinkston reports on the reactions of people at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan Sunday night.)
It's unclear what bin Laden's demise will mean for the future of Afghanistan, where about 150,000 NATO troops most of them American are embroiled in daily fighting with Taliban insurgents. On Saturday, the Taliban announced the beginning of their spring offensive after showing their strength with a string of deadly attacks on government and military compounds.
Bin Laden and his international terror network of al Qaeda were allied to Taliban, but the Afghan militants existed on their own long before and operate largely independently and the al Qaeda leader's death might have little effect on their battle against the Afghan government.
Ties between the United States and Pakistan hit a low point in recent months over the future of Afghanistan, and any hint of possible Pakistani collusion with bin Laden could hit them hard even amid the jubilation of getting American's No. 1 enemy. Critics had long accused elements of Pakistan's security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this.
Whatever the global repercussions, bin Laden's death marked the end to a manhunt that consumed most of a decade that began in the grim hours after bin Laden's hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center twin towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon across the Potomac River from Washington. A fourth plane was commandeered by passengers who overcame the hijackers and forced the plane to crash in the Pennsylvania countryside.
, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001," Mr. Bush said in a brief statement released Sunday night. "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."