President Obama was watching on a TV screen as a commando gunned down Osama Bin Laden. Via a video camera fixed to the helmet of a U.S. Navy Seal, the leader of the free world saw the terror chief shot in the left eye.
The Seal then carried out what is known in the military as a ‘double tap’ – shooting him again, probably in the chest, to make certain he was dead. The footage of the battle in Bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout – relayed to the White House by satellite – is said to show one of his wives acting as a human shield to protect him as he blasted away with an AK47 assault rifle.
She died, along with three other men, including one of Bin Laden’s sons. Within hours, the Al Qaeda leader’s body was buried at sea.
Despite President Obama claiming the master terrorist’s death made the world a ‘safer, better place’, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency declared that terrorists would ‘almost certainly’ respond.
The warning came on a day when:
? Relations between Pakistan and the West were under intense strain amid disbelief that intelligence chiefs in Islamabad had no idea Bin Laden was living in a compound only 800 yards from the country’s leading military academy.
? U.S. officials sought to justify the torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay by claiming it provided the crucial breakthrough in hunting down Bin Laden.
? It emerged that a terror operative captured in Pakistan in 2004 said Al Qaeda would detonate a nuclear bomb in the U.S. if Bin Laden were killed or captured.
David Cameron said Bin Laden’s death would be ‘welcomed right across our country’.
But security was stepped up as he warned: ‘It does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terrorism. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead.’
Last night the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Government’s emergency planning committee Cobra to assess the implications for the UK. Security sources have been told of specific threats against targets in North Africa and Europe.
Officials in Britain fear a ‘lone wolf’ – currently off the security services’ radar – could be inspired to take revenge.
There is no specific intelligence pointing to any attack in response to Bin Laden’s death, but it is ‘common sense’ to be on guard, Whitehall officials say.
Possible targets include popular tourist and business locations including the Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf and the London Eye, say security experts.
President Obama announced Bin Laden’s death in a televised statement shortly after 4am British time yesterday
He recalled the images from the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 which were ‘seared into our national memory’.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed – including 67 Britons – when four jets hijacked by Al Qaeda extremists crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The attack left ‘a gaping hole in our hearts’, said the President.
Last night pictures were released of Mr Obama and his security team – including Hillary Clinton – watching the mission to kill Bin Laden in the White House’s Situation Room.
Describing the scene, President Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said: ‘It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods in the lives of the people who were assembled.
‘The minutes passed like days and the President was very concerned about the security of our personnel.’
The President’s announcement sparked jubilant celebrations, with crowds gathering outside the White House and at Ground Zero where the Twin Towers had stood in New York.
Former President George W Bush, who was in the White House when the attacks took place, described the news as a ‘momentous achievement’.
‘America has sent an unmistakable message: no matter how long it takes, justice will be done,’ he said.
But the euphoria was tempered by warnings that Bin Laden’s supporters would carry out a wave of reprisal attacks against Western targets, including the UK.
CIA director Leon Panetta said: ‘Though Bin Laden is dead, Al Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must – and will – remain vigilant and resolute.’
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: ‘This is a very serious blow to Al Qaeda but, like any organisation that has suffered a serious blow, they will want to show in some way that they are still able to operate.
‘We will still have to be even more vigilant in the coming days about the international terrorist threat.’
Some 50 people living in Britain are believed to have attended terror training camps in Afghanistan. One suggestion is that Al Qaeda supporters who are not known to the security services could be emboldened to strike.
Another possibility is that terror cells already plotting attacks in the UK could bring forward their plans.
It also emerged last night that the timing of the U.S. mission may have been triggered by Wikileaks.
Although the CIA has thought since September that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad, the attack on his fortress came only days after the website published fresh secret documents.
These made reference to named ‘couriers’ carrying Bin Laden’s message to his followers, and also to Abbottabad as a possible Al Qaeda bolthole.
America has already revealed that it was led to Bin Laden by tracking a man identified as his key courier. When that courier was found in Abbottabad, the CIA began surveillance that led to the raid.
Last night it was said the operation had to be launched before Bin Laden knew the game was up. The theory is based on a leaked U.S. Defence Department assessment of Guantanamo Bay prisoner Abu Faraj al-Libi, 40.
This information identifies al-Libi as a chief of Al Qaeda who fled to Pakistan in 2001. He lived in Abbottabad for a year before being caught in 2005. He was then handed to the U.S., who continue to detain him.