Image: President Barack Obama
Pete Souza  /  The White House via AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama listens during one of a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011.
NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 5/4/2011 8:32:55 AM ET 2011-05-04T12:32:55

The nail-biting, 40-minute clandestine operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death could have been a calamitous political and military failure; a bloodbath in Pakistan that left scores of civilians dead and U.S. forces killed or captured by America's most ferocious enemy.

Or, as it happened, it could unfold largely in textbook fashion — delivering a stunning success for the often maligned intelligence community, a political and national security coup for a struggling president and revenge for Americans still carrying vivid memories of Sept. 11, 2001.

By secretly sending a team of special operations forces into an enemy fortress in a suburban neighborhood of a sovereign country, President Barack Obama chose the path of greatest risk, but also greatest reward.

As debates continued over whether a photograph of bin Laden's body should be released; if Pakistan had helped the al-Qaida leader elude capture and whether he had to be shot after it was revealed he was unarmed, an expert said there were many ways the operation could have gone wrong.

Video: Officials: Bin Laden unarmed when shot (on this page)

As U.S. officials evaluated their options ahead of the raid, Obama asked for a gut check from top members of his national security team.

The various plans, White House counterterror chief John Brennan said, were "debated across the board and the president wanted to make sure, at the end, that he had the views of all."

The level of risk stretched from moderate to massive.

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'Fog of war'
"When you go into something like this, there are no guarantees," said Dick Couch, a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War who later worked for the CIA. "There's the fog of war. Things go wrong that you don't really plan or intend."

Bin Laden might not have been there, the commandos could have run into stiff resistance or hidden explosives, or U.S. troops might have been detected by Pakistani forces who could have taken action against them, Couch said in a phone interview Tuesday.

"They have to plan ahead and account for as many of these contingencies as possible," he added. "But you can't take all the risk out of it."

An airstrike, like the one that killed al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an Iraq safe house in June 2006, could be done quickly, from a drone or bomber far away, generating little risk for U.S. troops.

Story: Pakistan accused of playing bin Laden 'double game'

In that operation, U.S. special operations forces went in after the F-16 strike and collected documents, electronic storage devices and weapons that were hidden under the floorboard in the building.

But that safe house was in a war zone where U.S. forces were already engaged.

Still, a bombing brings its own shortcomings: a misfire, an aircraft problem, the potential for widespread civilian casualties and difficulty in identifying enemy remains obliterated in a missile strike.

Video: Panetta: Death photo will 'ultimately' be released

Putting troops on the ground in Pakistan was by far the most dangerous option — both militarily and politically.

While an ally, Pakistan is a sovereign nation that has complained bitterly about U.S. drone strikes targeting insurgents within its borders. And Islamabad officials have strongly resisted having U.S. combat troops on Pakistani soil.

Obama knew that anything short of a clean and victorious mission would have dire consequences — further eroding an already tenuous relationship with Pakistan during a critical period of the Afghanistan war.

The U.S. needs Pakistan's assistance rooting out terrorists along the border and helping to prevent militants from crossing into Afghanistan as they become more active in the warmer spring weather.

Story: Bin Laden's hosts were 2 Pakistanis from frontier

At the same time, a helicopter assault that dropped elite commandos into the bin Laden compound forced them into direct combat, putting American lives in greater danger and presenting a greater risk of aircraft or equipment failures.

It also required exhaustive planning and training, which provided greater chances for information to leak out over the ensuing months, scuttling the mission and sending bin Laden deeper into hiding.

Previous disasters
The benefits, however, were too rich to ignore. With a precision assault, there would be much greater certainty the commandos would positively identify bin Laden — a linchpin for success.

It also reduced the risk of mass civilian casualties and dramatically increased the opportunity to gather what officials call a treasure trove of documents and intelligence.

As he reviewed the options, Obama had history to consider. As some of his predecessors can attest, these are the missions that can define a presidency.

President Jimmy Carter's failed re-election bid was blamed in part on the disastrous attempt to rescue American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980.

Eight American troops were killed when a special operations aircraft collided with a Navy helicopter at a rendezvous point in the desert on their way to the embassy.

And in the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu, made famous in the movie "Black Hawk Down," two helicopters were shot down and 18 American soldiers were killed during a U.S. mission to snatch a Somali clan warlord.

The same kind of helicopters were used in the bin Laden raid.

The images of gunmen dragging the bodies of U.S. soldiers through Mogadishu's dusty streets became an icon for those opposed to U.S. involvement overseas.

President Bill Clinton ordered a U.S. withdrawal and promised to never again deploy troops unless there was a clear U.S. national interest.

Did Pakistan help bin Laden?
Meanwhile Thursday, Pakistan was facing growing pressureto explain how the world's most-wanted man was able to live for years in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, just north of Islamabad.

The White House has vowed to "get to the bottom" of whether Pakistan helped bin Laden.

Pakistan has welcomed bin Laden's death, but its foreign ministry expressed "deep concerns" about the raid, which it called an "unauthorized unilateral action."

The CIA said it kept Pakistan out of the loop because it feared bin Laden would be tipped off, highlighting the depth of mistrust between the two supposed allies.

The revelation that bin Laden was unarmed appeared to contradict an earlier account from a U.S. security official that bin Laden "participated" in the firefight.

Story: Bin Laden not armed during US raid

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday cited the "fog of war" as a reason for the initial misinformation.

If this becomes controversial, it could complicate U.S. efforts to mend ties with the Muslim world in the wake of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Carney insisted bin Laden resisted during the raid, although he would not say how.

"There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and, indeed, he resisted," Carney said. "A woman ... bin Laden's wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

While many world leaders applauded the U.S. operation that killed bin Laden, there were concerns in parts of Europe.

"It was quite clearly a violation of international law," former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told German TV. "The operation could also have incalculable consequences in the Arab world in light of all the unrest."

Geoffrey Robertson, a prominent London-based human rights lawyer, said the killing "may well have been a cold-blooded assassination" that risked making bin Laden a martyr.

"It's not justice. It's a perversion of the term. Justice means taking someone to court, finding them guilty upon evidence and sentencing them," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

U.S. officials were also wrestling with whether to release graphic photographs of bin Laden's body, which could provide proof of his death but risks offending Muslims.

"It's fair to say that it's a gruesome photograph," Carney said.

The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com contributed to this report.

Video: Officials: Bin Laden unarmed when shot

  1. Closed captioning of: Officials: Bin Laden unarmed when shot

    >> let us begin with the debate over whether to release a photo of bin laden 's body. savannah guthrie has the latest. good morning.

    >> reporter: i'm told a decision on whether to release the photo is expected today. meanwhile, as you mentioned the administration changed its story on key details of how this went down. monday saying bin laden was part of a firefight, now saying he was unarmed. as for his wife initially the administration said she was used as a human shield and died in the firefight. we now know she survived. the president, moments after receiving a private standing ovation from his cabinet, sidestepping a question about the mission that took out osama bin laden .

    >> what do you say --

    >> thank you very much, guys.

    >> reporter: there are new details revealing that bin laden was unarmed when a commando shot him on the third floor of the secret compound but officials insist he resisted capture and taking him prisoner wasn't an option.

    >> there were many people armed in the region. there was a firefight.

    >> reporter: bin laden 's young wife in the room with him rushed one of the special forces and was shot in the leg. bin laden himself was shot once above his left eye and twice in the chest.

    >> the vote is 97-0.

    >> reporter: as the u.s. senate passed a resolution honoring the s.e.a.l.s who pulled off the daring mission the administration was debating whether to release a photograph of bin laden 's body to prove he was killed. sources who have seen the images describe them as gruesome. the terrorist leader's face recognizable but bloody. a substantial wound above his eye, blood and brain tissue visible. brian williams with leon panetta .

    >> the government has been talking about how to do this. i don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public. obviously i have seen those photographs. we have analyzed them. there is no question that it's bin laden .

    >> reporter: the final call on whether to release a photo rests with the president and the white house is weighing the desire to provide conclusive evidence with worries about inflaming the muslim world . on capitol hill , opinions were divided.

    >> what i have heard of the pictures they are not ghoulish, offensive and won't scare people.

    >> i personally think it's morbid. i won't be yelling to make the photo public.

    >> reporter: well, as for the discrepancies, the administration says in a rush to get information out they were going on incomplete information . not all of the commandos had been interviewed. authorities insist whether or not bin laden was unarmed doesn't change the legality of the kill given the context inside a dark house , a firefight, shots fired. the commandos were fired upon almost from the moment they hit the building. authorities say it was a legal kill. one other note, matt. the president invited george w. bush and former president bill clinton with him tomorrow but george w. bush is unable to attend and clinton is unlikely to attend because of scheduling. back to you.

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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  1. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Above: Slideshow (81) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - World reaction
  2. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (29) World reacts to death of Osama bin Laden - The compound
  3. Image:
    Aamir Qureshi / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (29) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - The compound
  4. Image:
    Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (81) After the raid: Inside bin Laden's compound - World reaction
  5. Image: Protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan
    Shahzaib Akber / EPA
    Slideshow (154) Pakistan: A nation in turmoil - 2013
  6. Image: PAKISTAN-NEW YEAR
    Arif Ali / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (160) Pakistan: A nation in turmoil - 2012
  1. Image: A man, injured from the site of a bomb explosion, is brought to a hospital for treatment in Quetta
    Naseer Ahmed / Reuters
    Slideshow (193) Pakistan: A nation in turmoil - 2011
  2. Image: Supporters of various religious parties take a part in a rally in support of the Pakistani blasphemy law in Karachi
    Athar Hussain / Reuters
    Slideshow (123) Pakistan: A nation in turmoil - 2010
  3. Image: Activists of Pakistani Islamist organisa
    Tariq Mahmood / AFP - Getty Images
    Slideshow (56) Pakistan: A nation in turmoil - 2009

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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