Nightly News   |  May 02, 2011

Mission accomplished: The end of bin Laden

Believing there was no other alternative, U.S. military officials confirmed Monday that their mission was to kill, not merely capture, Osama bin Laden. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

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>>> laden is dead. the man who killed thousands of innocent people. the man who launched the united states into two wars in the name of that attack, the man who changed the way we have to live in this country. the man who did all of this was killed by u.s. special forces acting on orders from president obama . we first learned his name back when there was still smoke rising from ground zero behind us here. the u.s. came close to getting him, but could not. he was villainized. he became something of a cartoonish cave-dwelling creature over time . in the end, though, we learned he was living well, under deep cover , but it wasn't deep enough. as the presidential and his national security team watched on live tv in the white house , two choppers full of americans landed on his compound in pakistan, rappelled down ropes and began attacking. he's already been buried at sea. a chapter is over while a new one begins. we have comprehensive coverage for you. jim remains on duty at the pentagon to start us off.

>> reporter: the cia made it official today that dna testing positively confirmed the navy s.e.a.l.s gauot their man. the massive compound that was osama bin laden 's base of operations sat empty today after u.s. operations pulled off their daring nighttime raid. it was president obama who broke the news.

>> tonight, i can report to the american people and the world that the united states has conducted an operation that kill killed osama bin laden , the leader of al qaeda .

>> reporter: it was half past midnight in pakistan. american helicopters loaded with navy s.e.a.l.s hugged the ground to avoid detection from pakistani radar as they closed in for the kill. as they reached the compound, small arms fire erupted from the rooftops and then panic. one of the helicopters lost altitude and was forced to land in the middle of the compound. no americans were injured, and in minutes, a dozen commandos were looking for osama bin laden . in a firefight that lasts 40 minutes, the s.e.a.l.s killed two operatives on a small building on the edge of the compound. they then cysystematically went room by room where they found osama bin laden and his son. as the s.e.a.l.s closed in, bin laden opened fire. the s.e.a.l.s fired back, killing bin laden and a woman. bin laden was the last to die with at least one gunshot to the head. this video obtained by abc reportedly showed the room where been laudb win laden. they believe there was no other way out.

>> the word was osama bin laden would not surrender, and his security agents had been told to kill him if it looked like they were going to lose him to a u.s. snatch operation.

>> reporter: the commandos departed with bin laden 's body, and before the end of the day , his body was aboard the u.s.s. carl vinson where he was given a proper muslim burial at sea. u.s. officials tracked him down, while the u.s. military took him out.

>> this is what we call a clean hit and a solid piece of work from an intelligence and special opralgzs standpoint.

>> reporter: and that windfall may just be beginning. navy s.e.a.l.s recovered large volumes of computer data and hard drives. so much of it that could provide valuable intelligence on al qaeda . there's so much of it that they have created an entire task force all its own just to wade through it.

>> jim , after a long night on the story and a long day at the pentagon, jim , thanks.