2011-05-04 / Front Page

Bin Laden Dead

By John Toscano

Congratulatory messages streamed into the Gazette for the past two days, praising President Barack Obama and his team of military and security officials for the job well done in disposing of Osama bin Laden on Sunday.
The dramatic events that ended the search for our nation’s public enemy number one, were greeted wildly throughout the United States. It had special meaning for the families of those killed on September 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and aboard an airplane over Pennsylvania.
Topping the list of messages was one from Governor Andrew Cuomo who wrote that bin Laden’s death was “an historic moment that represents a major step in our country’s effort to defeat terrorism around the world and should bring a sense of justice to the victims of 9/11 and his other attacks”.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote, “In the dark days that followed September 11, we made a solemn commitment, to the dead and the living, that we would bring to justice those responsible for killing more than 2,900 innocent people. Yesterday, Osama bin Laden found out that America keeps its commitments.”
Others who sent messages included Congressmembers Joseph Crowley and Carolyn Maloney and Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.
The world-shaking news came abruptly late Sunday night as millions of viewers’ television shows were interrupted by a message delivering the startling news that bin Laden was dead and the president would be making a statement shortly.
President Obama came on soon  after midnight with the announcement:
“Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of men, women and children.”
The president and some members of his cabinet had watched the raid by a television transmission directly from Abbottabad, Pakistan where bin Laden lived with his family in a huge high-walled compound surrounding a three-story mansion. The midnight raid was carried out by a 24-member unit of the U.S. Navy Seals that was dropped into the compound by helicopter. They killed bin Laden and four others before departing again by helicopter.
Bin Laden, using a woman as a shield, was killed by a shot above his left eye, and his human shield was also killed. His body was identified using DNA from a sister who died in Boston. He was then buried at sea after being given a proper Muslim funeral.
The raiding party consisted of about 25 Navy Seals. After President Obama made the decision to raid the compound and mansion on April 29, the raiding party was flown to the site in two helicopters after midnight in Pakistan, about 3:30 p.m., ET on May 1.
According to administration officials, one of the women in the room with bin Laden identified him by name. Bin Laden was later also positively identified through facial recognition technology, photos and DNA analysis. The battle lasted about 45 minutes. No American personnel were injured.
When one of the original helicopters malfunctioned a third one was dispatched to get the Seals unit out.
The real time viewing of the Seals’ action took place in the White House basement where the president and his top aides gathered in the Situation Room to watch the action on secure video screens supplemented by radio reports.
Among those present were Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen.
White House counterterror chief John Brennan reported afterward they watched intently, their eyes focused on the screen as the dramatic action unfolded. Hardly a word was spoken, Brennan said. “It was clearly very tense...a lot of people just holding their breath.”
When the raid was over and the Seal unit departed unscathed, applause broke out as the tension subsided.
According to press reports, last July Pakistani allies working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spotted bin Laden’s most trusted courier and recorded the license plate of his car. From that meeting in Peshawar, they tailed him for a month throughout Central Pakistan until he unwittingly led them to a huge triangular compound in Abbottabad, about 35 miles northeast of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.
Inside the compound was a huge mansion where, they eventually learned, Osama bin Laden lived with his family. The compound was surrounded by walls from seven to 18 feet high, topped by barbed wire.
On the evening that President Obama broke the news of bin Laden’s death, there were impromptu rallies in Times Square in Manhattan and outside the White House in Washington. Both included mostly youths waving American flags and praising the president for leading the effort that led to bin Laden’s death.
On Monday, there were constant crowds gathering around Ground Zero. These included many family members of 9/11 victims gathering to give solace to each other.
Reporters in that area encountered former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani who said he doesn’t go near Ground Zero “because it brings back painful memories”. He was very happy with bin Laden’s death and praised the president for his courage.
Giuliani was remembered for his valiant effort on 9/11 to bolster the spirits of some of the survivors as they left the World Trade Center and nearby areas.
Giuliani is still regarded as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination for president next year.
Many other Republicans put aside partisan issues to join in praising President Obama’s steadfast effort to get bin Laden. The administration learned that bin Laden was living in Pakistan in July 2010. Of course this sensitive information was kept secret until now.
Among the well-wishers acknowledging Obama’s role in tracking down bin Laden, which included many Republicans, were:
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York): “This is a massive accomplishment for the countless military and intelligence personnel who have been urgently dedicated to this task for the past decade.”
Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/The Bronx): “In particular, my thoughts and prayers are with the families from New York and across America who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.” Crowley is the only member of Congress who lost a family member on September 11–Battalion Chief John Moran.
Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan): “The announcement by the president was a truly  historic moment after one of the most tumultuous decades in modern times. It comes as welcome news to those whose lives were ripped apart by the attacks of 9/11.”
Congressmember Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside/Long Island): “Justice has been done. After so many years of effort, the killing of Osama bin Laden represents a huge victory for the United States and proof that no matter how hard they try, our foes cannot hide from us.”
Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria): “I congratulate our military for proving once again that you can run but cannot hide from justice. Al Qaeda consists of many independent cells, some of which were found right here in Queens, and therefore we cannot lessen our guard one iota.”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly: “The death of Osama bin Laden is a welcome milestone for the friends and families of those killed on 9/11, and for all who remain tenaciously engaged in protecting New York City from another attack.”
Councilmember Dan Halloran (R/C-Whitestone): “Today is a day for all New Yorkers to celebrate. The man who tried to tear our city apart 10 years ago has been brought to justice. My cousin, FDNY Lieutenant Vincent Halloran, was one of the hundreds of firefighters to fall in the Towers. Today, I will remember him and the other, many victims of Osama bin Laden’s violence.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-New York): “The assault that ended bin Laden’s life brought an essential measure of justice to the families of the 9/11 casualties, to the countless residents of my community and first responders from around the city and state who continue to suffer from World Trade Center-related illnesses.”
Assemblymember Grace Meng (D-Flushing): “I am so grateful to the men, women and their families who sacrifice their lives for our daily freedom and for making tonight’s shocking news possible. We will need to be just as alert and cautious. It is not the time to let our guard down. We should all feel very proud to be American.”
Among the Republicans who praised Obama for the part he played in settling the score with bin Laden were former President George Bush and Congressmember Peter King of Long Island, who heads the House Homeland Affairs Committee. Also former Vice President Dick Cheney, who stated, “The administration really deserves credit for the success of the operation.”
Donald Trump, a sharp critic of President Obama, declared: “I want to personally congratulate President Obama.”

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