By John T. Bennett - 05/02/11 05:02 AM EDT
Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday in an mansion in an affluent part of a city north of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital city.
The man behind the Sept. 11 attacks, thought by some to be living in a cave, who had eluded capture for more than a decade, was killed after U.S. forces raided his compound, which was located in a part of Abbottabad that is home to many "retired military," an administration official told reporters Sunday.
It was “custom-built to hide someone of significance,” an administration official said.
The U.S. operation that killed the al Qaeda leader was months in the making, with a terrorist detainee providing a clue that became the big break sought after by American intelligence officials.
Intelligence officials began working on new intelligence that eventually led them to bin Laden last fall after a detainee in U.S. custody provided the nickname of a courier who U.S. officials believed might lead them to the terrorist leader.
U.S. intelligence officials were looking for individuals who might have “personal contact” with bin Laden, one official said.
One of the couriers “flagged” for close scrutiny “had our constant attention,” the administration official said. Terrorist detainees provided the man’s “nickname” and identified him “as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden.”
Then, frustration set in.
For “two years,” American intelligence personnel were unable to determine the courier’s real name or his location.
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But eventually they located the man, and after “persistent efforts” were able to “pinpoint” his location, the official said.
“We were shocked by what we saw,” he told reporters.
Additional intelligence gave American intelligence officials “a high probability” that bin Laden was inside.
After five White House meetings with his war council in recent weeks, Obama on Friday greenlit the mission.
During the early morning teleconference, administration officials would not say whether a U.S. military unit or a CIA team conducted the raid.
The White House did not share the intelligence with any other nation, including Pakistan. Islamabad was not notified of the raid before it occurred.
Officials used terms and words like “a small team” and “U.S. operators” in describing the unit that conducted the mission.
Whatever kind of troops were involved entered the compound Sunday and exchanged gunfire with those inside — including bin Laden, the senior official told reporters.
“He did resist the assault force and was killed in a firefight,” the administration official said.
The officials said bin Laden’s body, in U.S. custody, would be handled in line with Muslim traditions and practices. It was later reported his body was buried at sea.
This post was updated at 7:50 a.m.