|Osama bin Laden|
On May 1, 2011, U.S. helicopters left Afghanistan en route to an odd, high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan where they believed they had about a 50 percent chance of finding a wanted man who had eluded U.S. capture for a decade. Within hours, U.S. Navy SEALs had killed Osama bin Laden, his son, and three others, and hauled away of trove of information, including videos (seen here), documents and computer drives, in a daring raid that avenged the deaths of thousands – and infuriated the Pakistani government. A year later, we look back at what happened to the wives and children found inside the compound, the elite military force that carried out the strike, and the terror group that Osama founded.
|The Bin Laden Wives|
After the raid, bin Laden's wives and children were left outside the compound for Pakistani authorities to discover. Three bickering wives, five children and four grandchildren, in addition to Osama's couriers, had shared the cluttered, cramped compound. Amal Ahmed Abdulfatah, Osama's youngest wife and his favorite, had been wounded as the SEALs closed in on bin Laden. Pakistani police interrogated the survivors, learning details of the family's long stay in Abbottabad. Several of Amal's children with Osama were born in Pakistani hospitals. On April 26, 2012, after interrogation, a short sentence of house arrest for entering the country illegally, and delays because of paperwork problems, the wives were deported to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government indicated a potential willingness to permit them to stay, saying there is no indication that the women and children are involved in terrorism.
|The Abbottabad Compound: Before|
Bin Laden's high-walled compound was guarded by police after his death. U.S. and Pakistani authorities soon determined that bin Laden had lived in compound for six years -- hiding one mile from Pakistan's version of West Point, and close to the capital of Islamabad, not in caves or safe houses in the mountainous border region. The discovery added to the strain in relations between Pakistan and the U.S. in the aftermath of the raid.
|The Abbottabad Compound: After|
The compound stood empty until February 2012, when the Pakistani government used heavy machinery to demolish it. Pakistani officials did not give any public reason for razing the site.
|The Stealth Chopper|
In the course of the Navy SEAL raid that took bin Laden's life, not everything went to plan. During the nighttime insertion, one of the American helicopters carrying the SEALs -- a highly classified, modified Blackhawk -- clipped the wall of the compound and crashed. Though most of the bird was destroyed by the SEALs, the discovery of pieces of the stealth chopper sparked a minor international incident. Pakistani officials, refusing to immediately return the chopper, hinted that the Chinese or Russian militaries may be interested in taking a peek at the new technology. The U.S. did eventually get the helicopter back, but not before Chinese experts were reportedly allowed to see it first.
After bin Laden's death, al Qaeda cofounder Ayman al-Zawahiri became the new leader of the terror group. His status did not become official until June 16, however, when it was announced on several jihadi websites. The delay, which helped fuel rumors that other lesser known jihadis had assumed the mantle of al Qaeda chieftain, might have been linked to the need for the surviving leadership to communicate and formally approve Zawahiri's ascension. Zawahiri has since released a string of videos seeking to capitalize on the Arab Spring revolutions in countries from Libya to Syria, but al Qaeda has mostly experienced the region-wide uprisings as a spectator, according to U.S. officials. Zawahiri is believed to be hiding in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. He tops the U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice most-wanted list, with a $25 million price tag on his head.
|SEAL Team Six|
On August 6, 2011 Afghan insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter. Thirty Americans were aboard, including 22 Navy SEALs. Most of the SEALs were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that had killed bin Laden three months earlier. All aboard the Chinook were killed. However, none were from the squadron that participated in the Abbottabad raid.
After it was revealed that U.S. Navy SEALs had been the ones to take out America's most wanted man, the international spotlight turned on the normally secretive group. The Navy responded in an unprecedented manner by further illuminating the group and releasing a feature-length action film called "Act of Valor" starring active duty SEALs and real SEAL tactics and weapons. That movie comes ahead of a controversial big-budget Hollywood movie about the raid that killed bin Laden directed by Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow called "Zero Dark Thirty." But fame hasn't been all good. Don Shipley, a former SEAL who has made it his life work to track down people lying about service in the SEALs, told ABC News that since the bin Laden raid, fakers have been coming out of the woodwork.
In terms of his influence on Western jihadis, and his involvement with terror plots against U.S. targets, American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had arguably eclipsed bin Laden by the time of the al Qaeda founder's death. Awlaki was linked to the attempted "underwear bombing" of Northwest flight 253, the massacre at the U.S. Army's Ft. Hood in Texas, and the failed cargo bomb plot of 2010, in which printers stuffed with explosives were intercepted en route from Yemen to Chicago. In early 2010, President Obama authorized the use of deadly force against Awlaki. On May 5, 2011, just days after bin Laden's death, Awlaki narrowly escaped a missile strike on his car in Yemen. He was less lucky on September 30, 2011, when U.S. Hellfire missiles from a Predator drone hit his vehicle, killing him and three others.
The same U.S. strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki killed another American jihadi, al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan. The Saudi-born Khan, who was raised in New York, began his career as a basement blogger in North Carolina, then moved to Yemen in 2009. He launched al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's online English-language magazine "Inspire" in 2010, and used slick graphics, snark and U.S. slang to try to convince readers to take up jihad and "Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom." Khan may be dead, but copies of "Inspire" are still being found among the effects of confirmed and suspected jihadis, like the men arrested in Luton, England earlier this month and charged with the intention of committing acts of terrorism.
In April, the State Department's Rewards for Justice website posted a $10 million reward for information leading to the capture of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, an amount equal to that for Taliban founder Mullah Omar and second only to the bounty on Zawahiri. Saeed is believed to have masterminded the 2008 Mumbai massacres, in which almost 200 people, including six Americans, were killed. Though he was detained after the attack, he now moves openly in Pakistan with the apparent tolerance of the government. On the day the $10 million bounty was announced, he seemed to taunt the U.S., though it had killed bin Laden inside Pakistan less than a year before. "I am living my life in the open and the U.S. can contact me whenever they want," he said, adding that he would be at a nearby hotel the next day if U.S. officials wanted to talk to him. He also said the U.S. should pay him the bounty, since he had revealed his location.
|Al Qaeda in Africa|
The U.S. has now stepped up its drone campaign in Yemen targeting al Qaeda militants. But since bin Laden's death, al Qaeda seems to have increased its influence in Africa. U.S. officials fear that the violent Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, which has attacked churches (seen here) and government targets, may have al Qaeda ties, while some anti-Gadhafi militants in Libya had known al Qaeda ties, and groups in Somalia and Mali have made their allegiance to al Qaeda explicit. In Mali, an al Qaeda-allied militia has taken over the northern portion of the country, and in Somalia, the terror group al Shabaab has formally pledged fealty to al Qaeda. Zawahiri quickly accepted the offer of a merger, despite the disapproval of al Qaeda's other founding father. Before his death, bin Laden had ignored earlier offers of a merger, and had written a letter to al Shabaab's leader, saying the group should not call itself part of al Qaeda lest that hurt its fundraising. Bin Laden, despite being responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians himself, also advised Shabaab against killing civilians.
A year after the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, Pakistani politicians are trying to limit the ability of the U.S. to hunt and kill al Qaeda and Taliban suspects inside Pakistani territory. The Pakistani government is pressing the U.S. government to stop all drone strikes inside its borders, calling them "a total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations" and a violation of national sovereignty. Pakistani lawmakers established guidelines in April 2012 to repair relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, post-Osama, but the conditions included an immediate halt to drone strikes. The Pakistanis have also offered to reopen a supply route over the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan that was closed after the U.S. accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers during a mistaken raid. The condition for the reopening of the route, which is vital to resupplying the U.S. military? The end of drone strikes.
|The United States|
During a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington on April 30, 2012, chief White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said, "Today it is increasingly clear that -- compared to 9/11 – the core al Qaeda leadership is a shadow of its former self." He added that according to documents found in Osama's compound, the al Qaeda leader rued "disaster after disaster" that had befallen his organization, and recognized that it had lost its standing in the Muslim world. Brennan said he hoped the decade ahead "will be the one that sees [al Qaeda's] demise." But he also noted the shift of al Qaeda's activities to Yemen and Africa, and said, "I am certain about one thing. We are at war. We are at war against a terrorist organization. . . . And the president has a Constitutional and solemn obligation to do everything in his power to protect the safety and security of the American people."