U.S. officials are wary that the celebrations could trigger violent outbursts overseas. U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have been given a clear message to pass down to troops that they want a low-key reaction to the news, without any gloating, and they say this message comes "from the top" in Washington.
A top al Qaeda commentator on the internet was already vowing revenge. "Assad al-Jihad2" promised to "avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam," according to the Associated Press, and warned that the war is far from over.
Though the critical tip about where bin Laden might be hiding came in August, the pursuit to find and kill him was nearly a decade in the making. The hunt began with a tip from detainees at the Guantanamo prison for terrorists who described an individual close to bin Laden who delivered messages to and from him.
U.S. intelligence officials were eventually able to track down the specific name in 2007 and for years, they sought out information about him. They finally spotted him in 2009 and it took a while to follow him, sources say. All signs signaled to bin Laden being in the compound, sources say, even though intelligence officials never saw him outside.
In April, the Navy Seals ran two practice runs at the replica compound they built in the United States to practice the raid.
The next target for the United States is likely to be the number two in al Qaeda's chain of command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, helped found al Qaeda along with bin Laden. Sources say intelligence officials will also likely target Anwar al-Awlaki, a former imam thought to be behind such attacks against the U.S. as the failed Christmas Day terror plot in 2009.
"Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not," CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said in a message to employees. "The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must -- and will -- remain vigilant and resolute."
ABC News' Mike Boettcher, Richard Esposito, Jason Ryan, Brian Ross and Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.