President Barack Obama announced minutes ago that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda movement, is dead following a “targeted” U.S. operation in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Speaking on national television late Sunday night, Obama said that shortly after taking office, he had instructed the CIA to make capturing Bin Laden a top priority. He was briefed on a possible lead to Bin Laden last August, and last week he decided that the U.S. had “enough intelligence to take action.” Today Obama authorized a “targeted operation,” in which Bin Laden was killed in a firefight. The U.S. has custody of his body, according to the president, and there were no American casualties. Obama emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, saying Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader and was a “mass murderer” of Muslims. Obama credited Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts with helping locate Bin Laden and said he had contacted Pakistani leaders, who agreed that the death of Bin Laden is good for both countries.
I will update this post as more news and Iowa reaction become available. Official statements from Representatives Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Bruce Braley (IA-01) are after the jump. Former President George W. Bush issued a statement congratulating Obama and the members of the U.S. intelligence community who made today’s events possible.
Meanwhile, use this thread to discuss the political implications of Bin Laden’s death. Al Qaeda isn’t going to disappear overnight, nor is the U.S. likely to end its military presence in Afghanistan sooner. I don’t know enough about U.S.-Pakistani relations to have a sense of the likely impact.
The UK newspaper Daily Mail published an article yesterday on how Bin Laden escaped elite British and American troops near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001.
Comments about other U.S. military interventions are also welcome in this thread. Yesterday in Tripoli, a NATO air strike killed the youngest son and three grandchildren of Col. Moammar Qaddafi. The Libyan leader and his wife were reportedly not harmed. Some GOP senators have said regime change should become the explicit U.S. policy goal in Libya.
UPDATE: Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a statement congratulating “our intelligence community, our military and the president.”
SECOND UPDATE: Representative Tom Latham (IA-04) via Twitter: “On this night of historic news may God bless the victims of 9/11 and may God continue to bless the United States and freedom’s cause.” Kind of a strange tweet from Senator Chuck Grassley: “Pres bush was right when he said there aren’t enuf caves for Osama bin Laden to hide. That we wld get him. We got him”
THIRD UPDATE: The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for American citizens due “to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”
FOURTH UPDATE: An administration official briefing journalists after Obama’s speech said the U.S. did not inform Pakistani authorities about this mission in advance. Official says four people were killed in raid in addition to Bin Laden: one of Bin Laden’s sons, two other male associates and a woman who allegedly was being used as a shield. The large compound where Bin Laden was found was reportedly built about five years ago, but U.S. officials do not know how long Bin Laden had been living there.
FIFTH UPDATE: Added Representative Dave Loebsack’s (IA-02) statement after the jump.
MONDAY UPDATE: The large compound where Bin Laden was reportedly killed is very close to a Pakistani military academy, raising “suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader.”
U.S. officials said they buried Bin Laden at sea last night in accordance with Islamic law, after flying his body to Afghanistan to confirm his identity. Burial at sea will prevent any gravesite from becoming a shrine for the Al Qaeda leader’s followers, but the quick disposal of the body may prompt questions about whether he is really dead.
Marc Ambinder reports on “The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden.”
After the jump I’ve added Latham’s full statement, comments from Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a interesting stream of comments from an Abbottabad resident who started tweeting after hearing a helicopter at 1 am Sunday (“a rare event”). Still no statements released by Senators Tom Harkin or Chuck Grassley or Representative Steve King (IA-05).
FINAL UPDATE: I never did find a press release from Steve King regarding Bin Laden’s reported death, but he seems to have given most of the credit to U.S. policies sanctioning torture of terror suspects. On May 2, King posted these two Twitter updates:
Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?
ObL “Sealed” into eternal damnation. Intel from KSM in Gitmo:-) “It feels like the entire country won the World Series,” Bill Hemmer-FOX.
I don’t know why King would be quick to assume torture led to Bin Laden’s capture. Interrogating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed didn’t stop the trail for Bin Laden from growing cold. If this New York Times article “Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden” is accurate, Pakistani agents working for the CIA produced the key lead in the search for the Al Qaeda leader last summer.