- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s death Sunday in a million-dollar mansion in Pakistan at the hands of U.S. special operations forces punctured the mythology of a revolutionary leader sacrificing creature comforts for the good of jihad, American officials said Monday as the world digested the demise of its most notorious terrorist leader.

President Obama said bin Laden’s death was “a good day for America,” and his top counterterrorism adviser said the U.S. will seek to exploit intelligence found in the compound to try to roll up the rest of the al Qaeda terrorist network, which has affiliates in Pakistan, Yemen and North Africa.

The White House said bin Laden was buried at sea in keeping with Islamic law, but that action also denies him a grave site that could become a rallying point for supporters. Administration officials said his death - he was shot by Navy SEALs after trying to use a woman reputed to be his wife as a human shield - exposes him to potential followers as far different from the image of a committed fighter living in caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million-dollar-plus compound, living in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield,” said John Brennan, Mr. Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser. “I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”

Other details emerged of the dramatic raid on the compound in Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, including that bin Laden reached for a weapon to try to defend himself in the firefight.

One military source told The Washington Times that bin Laden’s compound was rigged for communication with other al Qaeda affiliates and that the raiding party found evidence that bin Laden was in regular contact by courier and other means with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as well as al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The compound had a dedicated fiber-optic cable that gave bin Laden access to the Internet without having to broadcast an electromagnetic signal, which helped him avoid detection by U.S. signal intelligence stations and aircraft.

Administration officials said bin Laden’s death does not end the threat from global terrorism, though it is a significant symbolic blow to al Qaeda, the organization bin Laden founded in the 1980s.

Al Qaeda has been implicated in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, in addition to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that left nearly 3,000 dead in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“Though bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is not,” CIA Director Leon E. Panetta told agency employees Monday.

Mr. Panetta, who was nominated by Mr. Obama to be secretary of defense, added, “We have struck a heavy blow against the enemy. The only leader they have ever known, whose hateful vision gave rise to their atrocities, is no more. The supposedly uncatchable one has been caught and killed. And we will not rest until every last one of them has been delivered to justice.”

Bin Laden’s identity was confirmed by a DNA match to relatives, but Mr. Brennan said the administration is still in the process of deciding whether to release additional proof, such as photos of the corpse or a video of the burial, to convince skeptics that bin Laden is in fact dead.

“We are going to continue to look at the information that we have and make sure that we are able to share what we can, because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened,” he said.

Officials declined to offer many details about bin Laden’s burial at sea other than to say that it was within 24 hours of his death, in accordance with Islamic law.

Mr. Brennan said U.S. forces were prepared to take bin Laden alive if he did not pose a “threat.” But, as was expected, he resisted capture and was killed.

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