From Patrick Ishmael:
Topic as yet unknown. Putting this up as a placeholder until the regular crew arrives. If you run across anything, flag it in the comments, and I’ll update this when appropriate. Stay tuned.
Update: The AP has a brief story up. Nothing that we don’t already know (or I guess, not know,) but that page may update as new information emerges. Worth keeping an eye on.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says President Barack Obama is making a late-night statement but is not announcing the topic that he will discuss.
Officials say the statement could come as early as 10:30 p.m. EDT.
It is highly unusual that the president would make a late-night statement with not even a hint about what he would discuss.
At this writing, we’re about 10 minutes from speech time, and still no firm ideas as to the subject. Sam Stein tweets:
white house is mum on topic. and rightfully so, only 15 min wait. but one official says its “Important enough that you shld pay attention”
Update: Narrowing down the topics.
Breaking – We are told it is a national security related announcement by the President
Update: This may be historic news, or it may not. Rumors swinging around wildly on Twitter. We’ll wait for the speech. If you have news, shoot it to me here or send it to the comments.
Update: BIN LADEN.
Update (AP): Fox News says he was killed in a missile strike last week and that they’ve been waiting on an announcement until they had DNA confirmation from the remains that it was him. If there was ever a question of discontinuing drone attacks in Pakistan, there won’t be after this.
In related news, Osama Bin Laden was alive as of last week?
Update (AP): One of the reasons I assumed he’d died years ago was that, if he was alive, surely he’d be taunting the U.S. with video messages. As it is, how many new videos of him have there been since 9/11? Two? He dropped almost completely off the grid and stayed there — for nine and a half years. Why? Just too gutless to show his face on camera lest we glean something from the video about his whereabouts?
Update (AP): I’m mighty, mighty curious to find out how much of a role Pakistan played in this too. Remember this story from just three weeks ago about how they wanted the U.S. to wind down the drone strikes and start removing CIA personnel? Maybe dropping a dime on Bin Laden’s location is their way of sweetening the pot. Now that we have our prize kill, the public might accept relaxing the pace of drone strikes.
Update (AP): The Times reported on a major drone strike in North Waziristan on April 22 that killed 23 people. Presumably that’s the one that got Bin Laden. Who else was with him in a crowd that big?
A choice quote:
The drone strike on Friday came after Admiral Mullen delivered an unusually harsh message during his visit here, saying publicly that Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, directly supported and abetted the Haqqani network of militants in North Waziristan. The network’s militants are responsible for many of the American casualties in Afghanistan, American commanders say.
Update (AP): Hold the phone — I’m seeing conflicting reports of where he was killed and neither involve Waziristan. A banner on CNN.com says it was inside Afghanistan. And a tweet from Breaking News says, almost unbelievably, that it happened outside Islamabad, a.k.a. the capital of Pakistan. If the latter is true, there are going to be a lot of uncomfortable questions being asked come morning.
Update (AP): U.S. relations with Pakistan will never be the same if this is true:
Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a mansion outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad along with other family members, senior U.S. official tells CNN.
Does this mean he wasn’t killed in a missile strike but in some sort of special forces op? Why didn’t the Pakistani media notice?
Update (AP): Maybe it wasn’t a drone strike after all:
CBS: Osama was “shot in the head.”
Update (AP): Good point from Dave Weigel: Now that we’ve gotten the scalp we wanted the most, the public will probably be even more inclined to support withdrawal from Afghanistan. Which, of course, is what Pakistan’s been after for years. Again, I’m very curious to know just what role their intel services played. Especially if the almost unbelievable detail about where this happened is true.
Update (AP): CBS is saying that he was killed in Afghanistan. Stay tuned; Obama will speak shortly. It’s nice to think of him being gunned down by U.S. troops, though, rather than blown to bits by a missile. It’s sweet to think that some of our guys got to see the look on his face when they came through the door.
Update (AP): Reuters says it was indeed U.S. special forces that did the honors. Awesome.
Update (AP): Obama’s speaking now. They’ve been developing a hot lead on Bin Laden for months; they tracked him to a compound in a town “deep inside Pakistan” and it all went down today, not last week as initially reported. There was a firefight and — amazingly — no American troops were harmed. O’s trumpeting Pakistan’s cooperation as I write this, but that’s thin gruel given the questions that are coming about who knew what in the Pakistani government about OBL moving around “deep inside” the country.
Update (AP): The city where they got him is named Abbottabad. It’s not in the tribal areas; it’s in the northeastern part of the country, just 75 or so miles from the seat of government in Islamabad. A telling aside from O’s speech: He said that he called Pakistan’s president after the incident to let him know — which, presumably, means there wasn’t Pakistani cooperation after all. As I said earlier, relations between us will never be the same.
All credit to Obama, though, for pulling the trigger and sending troops in to take care of business. If OBL hadn’t been there or if things had gone wrong, this would have been an international clusterfark, especially given how deep they were inside the country. Well done.
Update (AP): Dubya speaks:
Update (AP): Via Mediaite, Obama officially shares the good news:
Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.
Update (AP): A fascinating detail from blogger Anil Dash: Abbottabad is actually a tourist town in Pakistan. So much so that its Wikipedia entry has an entire section about it. It’s basically the opposite of a cave in the tribal areas. Presumably Bin Laden figured the U.S. would never look for him in a town like that. Marc Ambinder’s administration sources say they think Bin Laden was holed up in the compound for six months at least. Can’t wait to find out if that’s true, or if he was actually out and about at times mixing with the tourists.
Now, a question: Is this just a coincidence or something more?
Update (AP): A senior administration official confirms that Pakistani leaders weren’t briefed until after the attack. For all of O’s lip service tonight about how much we value our partnership with Islamabad, that speaks volumes.
Update (AP): A great question from Sultan al-Qassemi:
I wonder if Arab & world leaders will send Obama cables congratulating the US on killing OBL…
Update (AP): Nicholas Jackson of the Atlantic says the location of the compound has already been marked — by someone — on Google Maps. Follow the link and have a look. Assuming it’s correct, the compound is less than a thousand feet away from a (rundown) Pakistani police station.
Update (AP): WSJ reporter Tom Wright notes an amazing coincidence: Arch-terrorist and longtime Bin Laden crony Umar Patek was also captured in Abbottabad three months ago. Here’s a Jakarta Post story on the arrest published just two weeks ago. (Patek is Indonesian and was linked to the Bali bombings in 2002.) Pakistani intel is now claiming, per Wright, that they helped lead the U.S. to Bin Laden via information gleaned from Patek. That seems unlikely — apparently, we’ve known Bin Laden was in Abbottabad for six months or so, and if Pakistan was providing intel on OBL, Obama wouldn’t have waited until after today’s operation to phone Zardari. Still, it’s too startling a coincidence to actually be a coincidence. Did Patek lead us right to Bin Laden’s door by rendezvousing with him? And why didn’t Bin Laden run once Patek was picked up? He must have known by then that either Pakistan or the U.S. was interested in arresting local super-terrorists.
Update (AP): Howard Kurtz listened in on a conference call given by U.S. officials about the raid on the compound:
Security at the compound was “extraordinary,” an official said, with 12- to 18-foot walls topped by barbed wire. Yet the $1 million compound had no phone or Internet service. “Our best assessment was that bin Laden was living there with several family members, including his youngest wife,” the official said.
Asked what bin Laden did once the U.S. team landed, an official would say only: “He did resist the assault force.”
Officials said three other men were killed in the raid—one who is believed to be bin Laden’s adult son, and two couriers. One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by one of the combatants, they said. The U.S. team lost a helicopter due to mechanical failure.
I can’t wait for the full details tomorrow and then, in a year or two, the inevitable movie. More from ABC News and Brian Ross. It was, of course, the Navy SEALs who were the tip of the spear:
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 a seven-foot wall and valued at $1 million. The house had no phone of 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 swept into the compound at 1:30 and 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. 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, killed Bin Laden and all those with him.
Pakistani officials say it was a joint operation; U.S. officials say that only Americans were involved in the raid. Hmmmm. Oh — and Bin Laden did, reportedly, fire his gun. Savor the terror he must have felt in those last moments as those SEALs came through the windows and doors.
Update (AP): Amazing. This Pakistani IT consultant lives in Abbottabad and ended up tweeting about strange goings-on this morning without knowing the significance, of course. A few choice tweets:
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S
the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani…
I wonder which cable news net will land the first interview with him tomorrow.
Update (AP): Tourism isn’t the only thing Abbottabad is known for:
A medium-sized city, Abbottabad is home to a large Pakistani military base, a military academy of the Pakistani army, and a major hospital and other facilities that would could have served as support for Osama bin Laden.
A senior Indonesian militant, Umar Patek, was arrested in Abbottabad earlier this year. Mr. Patek was protected by a Qaeda operative, a postal clerk who worked under cover at the main post office, a signal that Al Qaeda may have had other operatives in the area.
Here’s a Google satellite photo of what may or may not be the compound. Yochi Dreazen, National Journal’s national security correspondent, tweets, “Military source tells me #Seals built a full-scale mockup of #bin Ladin’s compound and spent weeks practicing the raid and learning layout.”
Update: An Al-Arabiya correspondent claims that two of Bin Laden’s wives and four of his sons were captured during the raid. Apparently, the key to the whole operation was finding and tracking Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, a process that took years — and involved info given by Guantanamo detainees:
Some time after Sept. 11, detainees held by the U.S. told interrogators about a man believed to work as a courier for bin Laden, senior administration officials said. The man was described by detainees as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and “one of the few Al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin laden.”
Initially, intelligence officials only had the man’s nickname, but they discovered his real name four years ago.
Two years ago, intelligence officials began to identify areas of Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated, and the great security precautions the two men took aroused U.S. suspicions.
Last August, intelligence officials tracked the men to their residence in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a relatively wealthy town 35 miles north of Islamabad where many retired military officers live.
Ultimately, it was the conspicuous size and security precautions taken at the compound that made it stand out. And when they got further intel that a family roughly the size of Bin Laden’s was living there, they nailed it down. In other words, Osama was, for all intents and purposes, hiding in plain sight.
Also: U.S. officials confirmed that Pakistan was not, in fact, informed before the operation.
Update (AP): It’s 2 a.m. and we probably know all we’re going to know tonight. Jazz Shaw will pick this up in the morning with an early thread on new developments. I feel strangely low key about the news, to my surprise; since it broke a few hours ago, I’ve been thinking of the sound the second plane made when it hit the second tower. Nothing will undo it, not even this. But it’s rewarding to know that Bin Laden spent 10 long years hiding his face from the world and that, when the moment of truth came, he had to look Americans in the eye. It’s better than a happy ending. It’s a just one.