osama bin laden.jpgUnited States president Barack Obama says Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, has been killed by US forces in Pakistan.

The al-Qaeda leader was killed in a ground operation outside Islamabad based on US intelligence, the first lead for which emerged last August.

Mr Obama said after “a firefight”, US forces took possession of his body.

Bin Laden was accused of being behind a number of atrocities, including the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.

He was top of the US’ “most wanted” list.

Mr Obama said it was “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda”.

The US has put its embassies around the world on alert, warning Americans of the possibility of al-Qaeda reprisal attacks for Bin Laden’s killing.

Bin Laden approved the 9/11 attacks in which nearly 3,000 people died, saying later that the results had exceeded his expectations.

Last night there were rumours an operation was going on in an area close to Abbottabad. There were unconfirmed reports of a military helicopter crashing in the area as well.

Witnesses said the whole area was cordoned off and nobody was allowed close although they did hear gunshots and firearms. But nobody had any inkling that this was an operation to get Osama Bin Laden.

For those who keep a close on eye on these matters it wasn’t a total shock that he was ultimately hunted down in an urban area.

In the past we have had reports of him being treated in hospitals in Rawalpindi for kidney problems. There was even one report that he was treated in the southern city of Karachi. All of these were officially denied.

And some of the big al-Qaeda and Taliban names in the past have been captured in big Pakistani cities. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Kuwaiti-born senior al-Qaeda leader, was captured in Rawalpindi and Afghan Taliban military commander Mullah Baradar was reportedly captured in Karachi.

He evaded the forces of the US and its allies for almost a decade, despite a $25m bounty on his head.

Mr Obama said he had been briefed last August on a possible lead to Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

“It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground,” Mr Obama said.

“I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located Bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan.

“And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorised an operation to get Osama Bin Laden and bring him to justice,” the president said.

On Sunday a team of US forces undertook the operation in Abbottabad, 100km north-east of Islamabad.

Mr Obama said “no Americans were harmed”.

Giving more details of the operation, a senior US official said a small US team had conducted the operation in about 40 minutes.

One helicopter was lost due to “technical failure”. The team destroyed it and left in its other aircraft.

Three other men were killed in the raid – one of Bin Laden’s sons and two couriers – the official said, adding that one woman was also killed when she was used as “a shield” and two other women were injured.