On May 2, just six years ago, nearly a decade-long international man-hunt came to an end–Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was killed.
The 54-year-old leader of Al Qaeda was killed by United States Navy SEALs during a raid on his compound hideout in Pakistan, according to history.com.
Around 1 a.m. U.S. local time, 23 Navy SEALs in two Black Hawk helicopters landed at a tourist and military center near north of the capital of Pakistan. One of the choppers crash-landed into the compound, but nobody aboard was injured. The 40 minute raid killed five people, one of them being bin Laden, by U.S. gunfire, leaving no Americans injured.
After the attack, bin Laden’s body was immediately flown to Afghanistan by helicopter to be identified and then buried at an undisclosed location in the Arabian Sea within 24 hours of his death, to follow Islamic practices, as reported by history.com.
President Barack Obama oversaw the raid as it was occurring via drone footage and made a televised address from the White House in Washington, D.C. “Justice has been done,” he said, announcing bin Laden’s death. Following the announcement, crowds surrounded the White House, Times Square in New York City and the Ground Zero site.
When identifying and examining evidence and files the Navy SEALs obtained during the raid, they discovered bin Laden was eventually planning to assassinate President Obama and perform additional attacks against America, one included on the anniversary of the largest attack on U.S. grounds, September 11, 2001, which killed over 3,000 people.
Not long after the attack in 2001, President George W. Bush decided bin Laden would be captured dead or alive. This was not the first attempt made at capturing the terrorist, however. In December of 2011, American forces came close to capturing him in an Afghanistani cave, but he escaped before they were able to do so.
For much of the time before he was captured, the U.S. media reported he was thought to be hidden in a tribal area near the Afghan-Pakistani border. Little did many people know he had actually spent the final five years of his life less than one mile from an elite Pakistani military academy.
Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) analysts tracked bin Laden to be behind security walls in a residential neighborhood in the Abbottabad compound. For months, U.S. intelligence officials kept the compound under surveillance, although they were never positive as to whether he was actually hiding there or not until the raid occurred.
As told by history.com, the U.S. raided the compound without informing the Pakistani government in advance, and some American officials suspected Pakistani authorities of helping to hide bin Laden in Abbottabad, although there was never any concrete evidence found to reaffirm this.
On this day, many choose to remember the individuals who died in the 2001 attacks, as well as hope our country never sees an attack so catastrophic again.
Jessica Ricard can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org