Video: Bin Laden mission puts SEALS in spotlight

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 5/3/2011 11:51:37 AM ET 2011-05-03T15:51:37

The raid that killed Osama bin Laden will earn permanent bragging rights for the the elite Navy SEAL team that carried it out.

The SEALs won't confirm they carried out the attack, but their current chief, Rear Adm. Edward Winters of the Naval Special Warfare Command in California, sent an email congratulating his forces and cautioning them to keep their mouths shut.

"Today we should all be proud. That handful of courageous men, of strong will and character, have changed the course of history," he wrote, adding, "Be extremely careful about operational security ... The fight is not over."

It was a warning few needed in the secretive group, where operators are uncomfortable with media coverage, fearing revealing details could let the enemy know what to expect the next time.

Even their families are kept in the dark about many of the details of their operations. "There's a lot of times too when they say, well I can't talk about that. And we don't know half the stuff... But what they can share they do when they get home," the wife of a SEAL told NBC News. The network revealed only her first name, Casey.

Eric Greitens, a former SEAL and author of "The Heart and the Fist," told NBC News that the unit that carried out the raid on bin Laden's compound was "the elite of the elite."

"The word is that when they heard that bin Laden was their target, there was a huge cheer that went up," Greitens said on NBC's TODAY. "These guys were excited for the mission, they had been practicing for months."

"They will be honored and revered," Greitens said of the group that carried out the mission. As for the man who fired the shot that killed him: "He's a hero in my mind, and I think for all Americans."

The SEAL team that raided bin Laden's compound reportedly came from a unit based in Dam Neck, Virginia, called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or "DEVGRU." They call themselves the "the quiet professionals."

Video: Practice makes perfect mission, former SEALs say (on this page)

SEAL Team Six raided targets outside war zones like Yemen and Somalia in the past three years, though the bulk of the unit's current missions are in Afghanistan.

The unit is overseen by the Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the Army's Delta Force and other special units. JSOC's combined forces have been responsible for a quadrupling of counterterrorism raids that have targeted militants in record numbers over the past year in Afghanistan. Some 4,500 elite special operations forces and support units have been part of the surge of U.S. forces there.

CIA Director Leon Panetta was in charge of the military team during the covert operation, a U.S. official said. While the president can empower the SEALs and other counterterrorism units to carry out covert actions without CIA oversight, President Barack Obama's team put the intelligence agency in charge, with other elements of the national security apparatus answering to them for this mission.

Team Six 'doesn't exist'
SEAL Team Six actually works so often with the intelligence agency that it's sometimes called the CIA's Praetorian Guard — a partnership that started in Iraq as an outgrowth of the fusion of special operations forces and intelligence in the hunt for militants there.

SEALs and Delta Force both, commanded by then-JSOC chief Gen. Stanley McChrystal, learned to work much like FBI agents, first attacking a target, killing or capturing the suspects, and then gathering evidence at the scene.

McChrystal described it as building a network to chase a network, where the special operations forces work with intelligence analysts back at a joint operations center. The raiders, he said, could collect valuable "pocket litter" from the scene, like documents or computers, to exploit to hunt the next target.

The battlegrounds of Iraq and Afghanistan had been informally divided, with the SEALs running Afghanistan and Delta Force conducting the bulk of the operations in Iraq, though there was overlap of each organization. There is considerable professional rivalry between them.

Delta Force units caught Saddam Hussein late in 2003 and killed his sons Uday and Qusay in a shootout in Mosul earlier that year. Delta Force later tracked down al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, pinpointing the building where he sheltered for the aerial bombing that ended his life.

Video: New details on mission to kill bin Laden

The race to be the unit that captured bin Laden had been on ever since.

"Officially, Team Six doesn't exist," says former Navy SEAL Craig Sawyer, 47, who advises Hollywood and acts in movies about the military.

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After undergoing a six-month process in which commanders scrutinized his every move, Sawyer says he was selected in the 1990s to join the team.

"It was like being recruited to an all-star team," he said, with members often gone 300 days a year, only lasting about three years on the team before burning out.

"They train around the clock," he said. "They know that failure will not be an option. Either they succeed or they don't come home."

Other special operations units joke that "SEAL" stands for "Sleep, eat, lift," though the term actually stands for Sea, Air, Land.

"The SEALs will be the first to remind everyone that the 'L' in SEAL stands for land," says retired Army Gen. Doug Brown, former commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. "They have skills on the land equal to their skills at sea."

Brown, who led the command from 2003-07, said the operation against bin Laden is the most significant mission conducted by U.S. commando forces since the organization was formed in 1987 in the wake of the failed attempt in 1980 to rescue the American hostages in Iran.

"I can't think of a mission as nationally important," Brown said.

Video: Inside bin Laden’s Pakistani compound

Missions rarely made public
Although bin Laden's killer will not be named, nor will the other members of his unit, the Washington Post interviewed three former SEALs — including Greitens — to sketch out a likely profile.

Reuters / msnbc.com

"He's bearded, rough-looking, like a street urchin," Richard Marcinko, founder of SEAL Team Six, speculated. "You don't want to stick out," he said.

He is probably aged 26 to 33 and has carried out more than a dozen deployments, Marcinko told the Post.

Above all, he will have the drive and competitive spirit to want to get straight back into the action, the former SEALs predicted. And of course, he will remain anonymous.

The last time the public was made aware of a SEAL raid on Pakistani soil was 2008, when the raiders flew only a mile over the border to the town of Angurada, according to Pakistani officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic matters. The high-value targets the Americans had been told were there had fled, and those left behind in the compound fought back, resulting in a number of civilian casualties, U.S. and Pakistani officials say, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified operation.

While the U.S. usually does not comment on covert actions, especially ones that go wrong, the 2008 incident was caught on cellphone video, so they confirmed it and apologized publicly, U.S. officials said.

The successful bin Laden mission is a much-needed boost for the unit. The SEALs' reputation took a hit within the special operations community after a 2010 rescue mission led to the accidental killing of British hostage Linda Norgrove, held by militants in Afghanistan. One of the SEALs threw a fragmentation grenade at a militant when the team stormed their hideout, not realizing Norgrove was curled on the ground next to the militant, and then lied about throwing the grenade.

The SEALs originally reported that Norgrove had been killed by a fighter's suicide vest, but when the SEAL commanding officer reviewed the tape from simultaneous surveillance video, he saw an explosion after one of the SEALs threw something in Norgrove's direction, U.S. officials say, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified operation.

One SEAL was dismissed from the unit for his action.

DEVGRU is the same unit that rescued an American ship captain, Richard Phillips, held hostage on a lifeboat by Somali pirates after his capture from the USS Maersk Alabama in 2009. A DEVGRU unit fired precision shots from the rocking stern of a Naval ship, killing three of four pirates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: World reaction

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  1. Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officers keep watch at Grand Central Station in New York on May 6, one day after information from Osama bin Laden's compound indicated al-Qaida considered attacking U.S. trains on the upcoming anniversary of the September 11 attacks. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Muslims protest the killing of bin Laden in a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy on May 6, in London. The demonstration, which was called by radical Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, was in close proximity to a rival protest by the English Defense League that celebrated the death of the al-Qaida leader. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. English Defense League members gather outside the U.S. embassy in London to cheer the death of bin Laden, facing off against a rival Muslim protest condemning the killing, on May 6. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Supporters of the Pakistani religious group Jamaat-e-Islami rally against the U.S. in Abbottabad on May 6. Hundreds took to the streets in the town where Osama bin Laden was killed, shouting "death to America." (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A Pakistani on Friday walks past covered graffiti that reads "Usama bin Laden toun" (Osama bin Laden town) in Abbottabad, where bin Laden was killed on May 1. (Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Kashmiri Muslims on Friday offer funeral prayers in absentia for Osama bin Laden in Srinagar, India. Friday is a traditional day of protest in the Muslim world, where demonstrations frequently take place after the main weekly prayers. (Tauseef Mustafa / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Anti-American Pakistanis rally in Kuchlak, just north of Quetta, on Friday. (Arshad Butt / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Filipino anti-riot police and Muslims clash during a protest march in Manila, Philippines, on Friday. Hundreds marched toward the U.S. embassy to denounce the manner in which bin Laden‘s body was buried at sea. (Francis R. Malasig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Egyptian Islamists march to the U.S. embassy after the weekly Friday prayer in Cairo on Friday. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A Pakistani in Karachi on Thursday reads a newspaper showing the passport of Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, Osama Bin Laden's fifth wife who was shot in the leg during the raid. Amal Ahmed al-Sadah is being treated at the military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Rehan Khan / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Workers print T-shirts bearing images of Osama bin Laden at a shop in Surabaya in East Java, Indonesia, on Thursday. The shirts sell for 60,000 rupiah ($7) each. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Members of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front hold portraits of U.S. President Barack Obama and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a pro-U.S. rally as they celebrate the killing of bin Laden, at Noida in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, May 5. U.S. officials sought to keep a lid on growing scepticism over Washington's version of events around bin Laden's death, insisting the al Qaeda leader was killed during a firefight in the compound in Pakistan where he was hiding. (Parivartan Sharma / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A member of the radical group Islam Defenders Front walks past posters depicting Osama bin Laden and. President Barack Obama, during prayers for the al-Qaida leader at their headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, May 4. (Irwin Fedriansyah / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Pakistani seminary students gather for an anti-U.S. rally in Quetta on May 4, against the killing of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan said the world must share the blame for failing to unearth Osama bin Laden as anger swelled over how the slain leader had managed to live undisturbed near Islamabad. (Banaras Khan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. An armed police officer stands guard outside the U.S. embassy in London, May 4. Security personnel in London remain vigilant following the death of al-Qaida's Osama bin Laden. (Matt Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Members of Indonesia's Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) hold prayers for Osama bin Laden in Jakarta May 4. Indonesian Islamists hailed bin Laden as a martyr on Wednesday, illustrating sympathy for the al-Qaida leader among Southeast Asian militant groups. (Beawiharta / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. People shout slogans during a protest against the U.S. military raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden in Multan, Pakistan, May 4. (MK Chaudhry / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Soldiers and police officers patrol in the Nice-Cote d'Azur airport, in Nice, France, May 4, as security remained vigilant following the death of Osaam bin Laden. (Lionel Cironneau / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Activists from the Anti Terrorist Front hold placards and shout pro-U.S, President Barak Obama slogans during a demonstration in New Delhi on May 3. (Raveendran / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Supporters of the banned Islamic organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa shout anti-American slogans before a symbolic funeral prayer for Osama bin Laden in Karachi, May 3. The founder one of Pakistan's most violent Islamist militant groups has told Muslims to be heartened by the death of Osama bin Laden, as his "martyrdom" would not be in vain, a spokesman for the group said on Tuesday. (Athar Hussain / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Supporters of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, an Islamic charity organization widely reported to be linked with the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, offer funeral prayers for Osama bin Laden, in Karachi, Pakistan, May 3. (Rehan Khan / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Palestinians protest against the killing of the al-Qaida leader in the Gaza Strip on May 3. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, condemned the killing by U.S. forces of bin Laden and mourned him as an 'Arab holy warrior'. (Ali Ali / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Hundreds of Muslims offer special prayers for Osama bin Laden in Hyderabad, India, May 3. (Mahesh Kumar A / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A special issue of the magazine, Time, on the death of Osama bin Laden, will hit newsstands on Thursday, May 5. The cover show a red “X” over bin Laden’s face, and the magazine says it is the fourth cover in Time’s history to feature the red “X.” Other covers showed Adolf Hilter on May 7, 1945, Saddam Hussein on April 21, 2003, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 19, 2006. (Time via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. People read the newspapers with cover stories of Osama bin Laden, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 3. (Mohammed Mashhor  / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Supporters of the banned Islamic organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa embrace each other after taking part in a funeral prayer for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Karachi May 3. The founder one of Pakistan's most violent Islamist militant groups has told Muslims to be heartened by the death of Osama bin Laden, as his "martyrdom" would not be in vain, a spokesman for the group said on Tuesday. (Athar Hussain / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A member of an elite Filipino police anti-terrorist unit stands guard in front of the US embassy in Manila, the Philippines on May 3. (Francis R. Malasig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A vendor sells newspapers detailing the death of Osama bin Laden in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 3. (Massoud Hossaini / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Members of the All India Anti-Terrorist Front (AIATF) hold placards in New Delhi, India on May 3 during a rally celebrating the killing of Osama bin Laden. (Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Kristina Hollywood and her daughter Allyson attend a candlelight vigil for 9/11 victims at a memorial site following the death of Osama bin Laden in East Meadow, New York on May 2. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. University of New Mexico Senior Wes Henderson waves an American Flag during a rally in Albuquerque, NM, organized by a group of students on Monday to honor the troops after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. (Adolphe Pierre-louis / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Visitors, on Monday, look over the crash site of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan a day earlier. Nearly 10 years after Sept. 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. (Jeff Swensen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Danielle and Carie LeMack and Christie Coombs, who lost relatives on 9-11, pause during a ceremony to honor the victims, Monday, May 2 at the Garden of Remembrance in Boston, Mass. Families of local victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks gathered at the 9/11 memorial to reflect upon the death of Osama Bin Laden. (Darren McCollester / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, Sunday, May 1. Also pictured are Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. (The White House / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House, following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, Sunday in Washington, DC. (The White House / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near the compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Sunday, May 1. (DOD via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. (Left image) Middle school teacher Gary Weddle with his beard photographed minutes before he shaves off the beard at his East Wenatchee, Wash., home on Sunday, May 1, 2011. (Right image) Weddle displays his cut beard while shaving the remaining stubble. Weddle completed a vow made nearly 10 years ago not to shave until Osama bin Laden was caught or proven killed. (Donita Weddle / The Wenatchee World, Capital Press via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. People look out at Ground Zero a day after the death of Osama Bin Laden on Monday, May 2 in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. World Trade Center construction workers listen as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speak about Osama bin Laden at the World Trade Center site in New York on Monday, May 2. (Brendan McDermid / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Los Angeles Airport Police patrol the Tom Bradley terminal at Los Angeles International Aiport on May 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, Calif. Security presence has been escalated at airports, train stations and public places after the killing of Osama Bin Laden by the United States in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Carroll Fisher, of Auburn, Wash., a retired member of the US Air Force, waves a flag at passing cars as he stands on the "Freedom Bridge" just outside Joint Base Lewis-McChord on May 2, near Tacoma, Wash., the day after President Barack Obama announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Angry supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam burn a representation of the United States during a rally to condemn the killing of Osama bin Laden in Quetta, Pakistan on Monday. (Arshad Butt / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Afghan men working at a TV shop hug while watching the news of the death Osama bin Laden, May 2, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Paula Bronstein / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. A screen grab from the FBI's Most Wanted website, taken May 2, shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased. The al-Qaida leader was killed in a U.S. raid on a mansion near the Pakistani capital Islamabad early on Monday, officials said. (fbi.gov via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Joyce and Russell Mercer, parents of New York Firefighter Scott Mercer who lost his life on 9/11, sit before a news conference concerning the death of Osama Bin Laden at the law offices of Norman Siegel on Monday in New York City. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. An armored Park Police vehicle is parked at the base of the Washington Monument, May 2, in Washington, DC. The DC area and other places around the nation have stepped up security after it was announced that Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U. S. forces in Pakistan. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. A man selling carpets reads a newspaper reporting the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2 in Quetta, Pakistan. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Jim Schweizer, assistant to the director of Fort Snelling National Cemetery, straightens flowers at the grave of Thomas Burnett, May 2, in Bloomington, Minn. Burnett died on Sept, 11, 2001 along with 39 other passengers and crew when Flight 93 was hijacked and crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa. Osama bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was killed in a firefight with elite American forces in Pakistan on Monday, and then quickly buried at sea in a stunning finale to a furtive decade on the run. (Richard Sennott / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. This aerial photo, released May 2, 2011 by the Pentagon, shows a view of the compound in Abbottbad, Pakistan where a U. S. military operation was conducted and Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed on May 1. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Ashley Gilligan reflects on the death of Osama bin Laden at NBC Studios in New York on Monday. Gilligan lost her father, Ronald Gilligan, in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. (Jonathan D. Woods / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the death of Osama Bin Laden prior to posthumously awarding Private First Class Anthony Kaho'ohanohano, U.S. Army, and Private First Class Henry Svehla, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry, in the East Room of the White House in Washington on May 2. (Shawn Thew / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. Andrea Masano visits the memorial to Massachusetts victims of the attacks of 9/11 in Boston, Mass. on Monday. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  53. Women read an extra edition of a Japanese newspaper in Tokyo, May 2, reporting the death of Osama bin Laden. (Shizuo Kambayashi / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  54. Kristen Grazioso, 14, places balloons on a carved stone Monday in Middletown, N.J., that honors her father, who was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. There are 37 stones in the garden representing those from Middletown who died in the attack. (Mel Evans / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  55. A vendor arranges newspapers at his stall in Bhopal, India on Monday. (Sanjeev Gupta / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  56. Tara Henwood Butzbaugh shows a photo of her family at the World Trade Center site in New York on Monday. Her brother was killed in the 9/11 attack. (Andrew Kelly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  57. A Transportation Security Administration agent checks the luggage of a passenger on May 2 at the Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Fla. Security in airports and train stations has been increased in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. (Stan Honda / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  58. Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Gamache pays respects to victims of the 9/11 terrorists attacks, at the 911 Pentagon Memorial on May 2 in Arlington, Va. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  59. Jeff Ray of Shanksville, Pa., visits the temporary memorial to United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., Monday, May 2. (Gene J. Puskar / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  60. Supporters of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden shout anti-American slogans, after the news of his death, during a rally in Quetta on Monday. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  61. New York City police officers with Operation Hercules arrive at the Armed Forces recruitment center in New York's Times Square on Monday. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  62. Dionne Layne, right, hugs Mary Power in reacton to the news of the death of Osama bin Laden on Monday in New York. At left is 1 World Trade Center, also known as the Freedom Tower, which is currently under construction. (Mark Lennihan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  63. Pakistan army soldiers stand guard near the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Monday. (Anjum Naveed / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  64. Students look towards the compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed from a nearby madrasa in Abbottabad on Monday. (Faisal Mahmood / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  65. Dan Parker of Shamokin, Pa., holds a U.S. flag outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on Monday after learning of Osama bin Laden's death. (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  66. People buy newspapers reporting the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden at local newspaper printing press in Karachi, Pakistan on Monday. (Shakil Adil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  67. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, is flanked by vice presidents Mohammad Qasim Fahim, left, and Mohammed Karim Khalili, right, as he addresses the media at the presidential palace in Kabul on Monday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the killing of Osama bin Laden in neighboring Pakistan proved Kabul's long-standing position that the war on terror was not rooted in Afghanistan. (Shah Marai / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  68. People shout slogans while holding placards and photographs of Osama bin Laden as they celebrate his killing in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad on Monday. (Amit Dave / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  69. People react to the death of Osama bin Laden in Times Square, New York City, early Monday. (Eric Thayer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  70. University of Texas at Austin students celebrate the news of Osama bin Laden’s death at Cain & Abel’s bar late Sunday night. (Erika Rich / Daily Texan via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  71. People light candles in the streets at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Center, in response to the death of Osama bin Laden on Sunday night, May 1, in New York City. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  72. A driver and passengers celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in the streets of Lawrence, Kan., on Sunday. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night, May 1, that Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States. (Orlin Wagner / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  73. Arab-Americans celebrate the news of the death of Osama bin Laden in Dearborn, Mich., early Monday, May 2. (Carlos Osorio / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  74. Crowds gather at ground zero in New York early Monday, shortly after President Obama announced that a U.S. military operation had killed Osama bin Laden in a firefight at a large mansion in Pakistan. (Justin Lane / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  75. People cheer and wave flags on the "Freedom Bridge" just outside Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Sunday near Tacoma, Wash., after they heard the news of bin Laden's death. (Ted S. Warren / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  76. David Huber and Nicole Lozare of Arlington, Va., pay their respect to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon Memorial early Monday morning, after President Obama announced bin Laden's death. A special forces-led operation killed the al-Qaida leader in a mansion outside Islamabad in Pakistan. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  77. Crowds gather at ground zero in New York on Monday. (Justin Lane / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  78. U.S. Marines of Regiment Combat Team 1 watch TV at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on Monday as President Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden. Obama said late Sunday U.S. time that justice had been done after the September 11, 2001, attacks, but warned that al-Qaida will still try to attack the U.S. (Bay Ismoyo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  79. People celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in Times Square in New York City on Sunday night. (Pantaleo-Taamallah / Abaca) Back to slideshow navigation
  80. A crowd outside the White House in Washington cheers on Sunday upon hearing the news that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is dead. (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  81. President Barack Obama announces that Osama bin Laden has been killed during a televised address on Sunday, May 1, 2011. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
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Timeline: A timeline of Osama bin Laden's life

Considered enemy No. 1 by the U.S., the Saudi millionaire is the perpetrator behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Click on key dates to learn more about the founder of al-Qaida, an international terror network.

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