Osama bin-Laden addresses a news conference in Afghanistan in this May 26, 1998 file photo. REUTERS/Stringer/Files
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 5) - Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda, is dead.
"Tonight, I can report to the people of the United States and the world, the United States had carried an operation that has killed Osama Bin Laden, a terrorist responsible for killing thousands of innocent people," US President Barack Obama said in a speech at the White House Sunday evening (Monday morning in Manila).
Obama said in the historic address from the White House that he had directed the US armed forces to launch an attack against a compound in Pakistan on Sunday acting on a lead that first emerged last August.
"Today, at my direction, the United States carried out that operation... they killed Osama Bin Laden and took custody of his body.
"A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
"After a firefight, they killed Osama bin laden and took custody of his body.
"Justice has been done."
Pakistani intelligence officials also confirmed bin Laden's death.
"Yes I can confirm that he was killed in a highly sensitive intelligence operation," the official told the Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity.
The official said he was unable to immediately confirm where, how or when bin Laden was killed.
Asked whether Pakistani intelligence participated in the operation he said only: "It was a highly sensitive intelligence operation."
"The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date against Al Qaeda," Obama said.
"We must also reaffirm that United States is not and will never be at war against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader, in fact, he slaughtered many Muslims."
Killed in Pakistan
Bin Laden was reportedly killed in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, about 150 km north of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
Qais Azimy, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said that Afghan officials have confirmed that bin Laden had died and that his body was with the United States.
Aside from Osama, three other men and a woman were killed in the operation, including a son of the Al-Qaeda chief, officials said.
"In addition to Osama bin Laden, three adult males were killed in the raid," a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Two of the men worked as trusted couriers for bin Laden and the third was believed to be an adult son of bin Laden, the official said.
"One woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant. Two other women were injured" in the raid that lasted less than 40 minutes, the official said.
US forces lost a helicopter in the operation due to "mechanical failure' and the chopper was destroyed by the Americans, the official said.
Other US officials said they were stunned when intelligence reports first revealed the elaborate security at the compound where Bin Laden was hiding, with 12-18 foot high walls topped with barbed wire.
A key to the operation was a long-running effort by American spy agencies to track a trusted courier for bin Laden, another senior US official said.
Major accomplishment for Obama
The death of the reviled US enemy sparked jubilation across the United States, with a huge crowd gathering outside the White House just before midnight, chanting "USA, USA" as Obama made a dramatic nationwide address to Americans.
It is considered to be a major accomplishment for Obama and his national security team, having fulfilled the goal once voiced by Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, to bring to justice the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
US armed forces have been hunting the Saudi terror kingpin for years, an effort that was redoubled following the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon which killed 3,000 people in 2001.
Besides Sept. 11, Washington has also linked bin Laden to a string of attacks -- including the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 bombing of the warship USS Cole in Yemen.
But Bin Laden always managed to evade US armed forces and a massive manhunt, and was most often thought to be hiding out in Pakistan and Afghanistan border areas.
The death of Bin Laden will raise huge questions about the future shape of Al-Qaeda and also have steep implications for US security and foreign policy 10 years into a global anti-terror campaign.
It will also raise fears that the United States and its allies will face retaliation from supporters of bin Laden and other Islamic extremist groups.
Former US president George W. Bush who was in office at the time of the September 11 attacks said bin Laden's death was a "momentous" achievement and congratulated Obama and US intelligence and military forces.
"This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001," Bush said in a statement.
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Martin Indyk, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, described bin Laden's death as "a body blow" to al Qaeda at a time when its ideology was already being undercut by the popular revolutions in the Arab world.
Other experts were more cautious. "It changes little in terms of on-the-ground realities -- by the time of his death bin Laden was not delivering operational or tactical orders to the numerous al Qaeda affiliates across the world," said Rick Nelson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Statements of appreciation poured in from both sides of Washington's often divided political divide. Republican Senator John McCain declared, "I am overjoyed that we finally got the world's top terrorist."
Said former President Bill Clinton: "I congratulate the president, the national security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous al Qaeda attacks."
Having the body may help convince any doubters that bin Laden is really dead.
The United States is ensuring that bin Laden's body is being handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition, a U.S. official said.
Cheers at White House, Ground Zero
Chants of "USA, USA" rang out from a huge and quickly building crowd outside the White House as the news of bin Laden's death sent a electric charge through Washington.
People cheered waved the US flag and sang the US national anthem.
Despite the decade that has elapsed since the September 11 attacks, the event, one of the most traumatic in US history, still stirs raw emotions, and his demise will be celebrated across the United States.
In the Upstream restaurant in the old market area of Omaha, Nebraska, owners switched TV channels from the evening's sports games as news of Laden's death trickled in.
Patrons cheered and called friends to tell them of the news.
"We are going to be able to remember sitting here, you are going to remember where you where," said Vaughn Wickham from Spirit Lake, Iowa.
"I'm proud to be an American tonight," Kenneth Specht, a New York firefighter on 9/11, told CNN, paying tribute to the victims of the attacks in New York and Washington.
"Tonight they are first and foremost in our minds," he said.
Amid fears of retaliation by Al-Qaeda or other groups, the US State Department issued a global travel alert to all US citizens.
"The US Department of State alerts US citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan," it said in a statement.
New York's police chief Raymond Kelly meanwhile called the killing of bin Laden a "welcome milestone" for the families of the victims of the September 11 attacks.
The US dollar rose against the euro and the yen when it emerged that Obama would announce the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, nearly 10 years after the September 11 attacks.
The dollar rose against the euro, which fetched 1.4764 dollars from 1.4864 in earlier trade. The dollar was at 81.66 yen from 81.19 earlier. With reports from Al Jazeera, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, and CNN