May 2, 2011 -- Osama Bin Laden was killed not by a drone strike, but up close during a firefight with U.S. troops Sunday. He was not living in a cave when he died, but in a million-dollar mansion with twelve-foot walls less than 100 miles from the Pakistani capital.
The U.S. had been monitoring the compound in Abbottabad for months after receiving a tip in August that Bin Laden might be seeking shelter there. He had long been said to be in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan, Pakistan border, hiding in a cave as the U.S. sought to kill him with drone strikes from above. Instead, he was in a house eight times larger than its neighbors, with walls more than 12 feet tall and valued at $1 million. The house had no phone or television and the residents burned their trash. The house had high windows and few points of access, and U.S. officials concluded it had been built to hide someone.
According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters flew in low from Afghanistan and swept into the compound late Sunday night Pakistan time, or Sunday afternoon Washington time. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy SEALs under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, and killed Bin Laden and all those with him.
Two Bin Laden couriers were killed, as was one of Osama Bin Laden's sons and a woman reportedly used as a shield by one of the men. Other women and children were present in the compound, according to Pakistani officials, but were not harmed. U.S. officials said that Bin Laden himself fired his weapon during the fight, and that he was asked to surrender but did not.
One of the U.S. helicopters, a CH47 Chinook, was damaged but not destroyed during the operation, and U.S. forces elected to destroy it themselves with explosives. The operation took 40 minutes, much of it spent searching the residence for intelligence.
The Americans took Bin Laden's body into custody after the firefight, taking it back to Afghanistan by helicopter, and confirmed his identity. A U.S. official said he was buried at sea in accordance with Islamic practice.
According to Pakistani officials, the operation was a joint U.S.-Pakistani operation, but U.S. officials said only U.S. personnel were involved in the raid.
"The United States has conducted an operation that has killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda and a terrorist who's responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children," said President Obama Sunday night in an address to the nation. "A small team of Americans carried out with the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. After a firefight, they killed Osama Bin Laden, and took custody of his body."
Abbottabad is a city of 90,000 in the Orash Valley, north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, and east of Peshawar. It's the home of the Pakistani Military Academy and a major highway, and is 90 miles by road from Islamabad and 40 miles by air.