Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the deadly September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died seven years ago today. The early-morning raid in Pakistan brought to an end the largest criminal manhunt in world history. Now, on the anniversary of his death, here are some facts about how it all came together.
A Seven-Year Manhunt
Within hours of the September 11 attacks, the FBI named Bin Laden its most-wanted man and offered up to a $25 million reward for his capture. Meanwhile, The Airline Pilots Association offered an additional $2 million reward, as CNN reported at the time.
At one point during late 2001, American ground troops, fighting in the Battle of Tora Bora, were likely within a few hundred yards of their man but failed to capture him.
Over the next seven years, the Bush and Obama administrations continued their efforts to find the Al Qaeda leader, without success. Several tantalizing reports came in about his whereabouts, but efforts to find him kept coming up empty. Making things difficult was the fact that Bin Laden was known to use disguises and body doubles and was rumored to never stay in one location for more than a few hours.
A Break In The Case
Using intelligence gathered from Al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo and other CIA black sites, officials were able to identify men who acted as couriers for Bin Laden – who by that time had stopped using phones.
7 years ago today, Bin Laden was killed in a raid on his compound. It’s been 7 years and I’m still happy about it! pic.twitter.com/Z4TrCjgPvx
— Noah Ring (@TheNoahRing) May 2, 2018
Officials narrowed in on the couriers and, while searching for one of them, as The Hive reported in 2012, became aware of a “curious” building in Abbottabad. Unlike other homes in the area, it had no internet or phone connections. It was surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire. There was no way to see inside the house from the air or from the ground.
Eventually, the CIA determined that a man living there was likely Bin Laden. Then-President Barack Obama authorized the raid on the compound.
Operation Neptune Spear
In the early morning of May 2, 2011 (local time in Pakistan), approximately two dozen commandos and a military dog raided the compound. The specifics of what took place during that raid – during which a U.S. helicopter crashed (but with no injuries) – could make for another 2,000-word article. But long story short: By the end, Osama Bin Laden was dead, as were four other men who were in the compound that morning.
Osama Bin Laden was given an Islamic funeral and buried at sea, according to Islamic Law. Military officials have not revealed where his coffin was dropped.
Al Qaeda, meanwhile, has since become a shell of what it once was, as BBC News reports, having been eclipsed by the larger, wealthier, and more deadly ISIS. However, they’re still around, as evidenced by a March 2016 terrorist attack in Ivory Coast.
The New Face Of Terrorism
Since Bin Laden’s death, terrorism has taken a new form. Although the threat of large-scale terrorist attacks carried out with the cooperation – and money – from dozens if not hundreds of different operatives still exists, ISIS has employed a new strategy. Mainly, so-called “Lone Wolf” attacks, where a single attacker carries out whatever violence he can (such as ramming a van into a crowd) are now the way to go.
Does that mean that another jihadist may someday take the place of Osama Bin Laden and coordinate another September 11-style attack on the U.S. that kills thousands? The possibility is, of course, always there.