The U.S. Navy SEAL team that took down Osama bin Laden also secured a "mother lode of intelligence" contained in computer drives at his Pakistani compound, according to U.S. officials.
The special operations forces grabbed personal computers, thumb drives and electronic equipment during the lightning raid, Politico reports. “They cleaned it out,” one official reportedly said. "Can you imagine what’s on Osama bin Laden’s hard drive?"
Meanwhile, new details are emerging on the raid, including that the CIA knew as far back as February that the Al Qaeda chief was living at the compound in Pakistan, and that the team that killed Osama bin Laden would have taken him alive if it had the chance.
Navy SEALs prepared for the mission using a replica of the compound to carry out practice raids in early April, according to the National Journal.
On the day of the mission, originally scheduled for Saturday but delayed due to bad weather, a team of SEALs was reportedly flown from Afghanistan. They traveled in MH-60 helicopters that took off from Ghazi Air Base in Pakistan to Abbottabad about 30 miles from the center of Islamabad.
The raid itself lasted about 40 minutes and in the end 22 people were killed or captured. Bin Laden, held responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was killed by two shots to the left side of his face. His body was placed aboard one of the choppers with the returning soldiers.
"If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that,” John Brennan, a counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, told reporters at the White House, according to Politico.
U.S. officials confirmed that they identified bin Laden's body in Afghanistan using DNA tests, comparing brain matter from his sister, who died several years ago from cancer in Boston, the Telegraph reports.
President Barack Obama reportedly monitored the operation from the White House Situation Room on Sunday, a senior administration official told the LA Times.
Obama said Monday, “This is a good day for America."
According to Politico, he added: "The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden. Today we are reminded that as a nation, there's nothing we can't do when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together. And we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans."
In announcing bin Laden's killing a surprise televised address from the White House on Sunday night, Obama said: "For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda."
Bin Laden has since been buried at sea. According to Islamic practice, the body should be buried within 24 hours.
But Muslim clerics said Monday that burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets.
Amid debate over whether the sea burial was a wise choice, a number of senior Islamic scholars interpreted it as a humiliating disregard for the standard Muslim practice of placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca, the AP reported.
Amid concern over revenge attacks, the Port Authority of New York said that its police, who have jurisdiction over the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, had been told to increase their presence at the site of the twin towers destroyed in the 9/11 attacks, Bloomberg reports.
Meantime, it has emerged that Obama monitored the operation to take out bin Laden from the Situation Room along with his national security advisor, Tom Donilon, Secretaries Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the LA Times reports. CIA director Leon Panetta was at the White House at several points during the day.
During his televised speech Sunday, Obama addressed those who lost loved ones during the September 11 attacks and said: “We have never forgotten your loss nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.”
TV reports showed a huge crowd gathered outside the White House after Obama's speech, cheering and waving American flags. Here is a slideshow of people gathered at the White House.
Hundreds of people also gathered at Ground Zero in New York to celebrate the news, the Huffington Post reports. Others gathered in New York's Times Square, cheering the announcement which was carried on giant screens.
Former President George W. Bush called the announcement a "victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001."
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done," Bush said in a statement, as reported by ABC News.
Former President Bill Clinton also issued a statement welcoming the achievement.
"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," he said.
U.S. authorities had been looking for bin Laden for the past decade. Since the attacks in 2001, bin Laden was able to avoid capture by hiding out in the mountains of Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.
While in hiding, bin Laden released some 30 messages, which intelligence officials believed were passed from hand to hand to avoid giving away his location. But even while in hiding, states the New York Times, bin Laden "remained a potent symbolic figure" and continued to help shape Al Qaeda's strategy.
Al Qaeda's attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon set off a chain of events that led to the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Obama used the address to reiterate that while the United States has been hunting the Al Qaeda leader in the Arab world for the past decade, and has waged wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, America is not at war with Islam or Muslims.
"We must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
Politico reports that Obama's comment concerning Islam seemed intended to defuse any possible backlash from bin Laden's admirers. The news that the killing by a U.S. operation happened in Pakistan could also lead to anti-U.S. and sovereignty-related protests in Islamabad, it states.
An obituary in the Times on Sunday night calls bin Laden "the most wanted face of terrorism."
"With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters, gloating on videotape, taunting the United States and western civilization."
Bin Laden has also been accused of being behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed more than 200 people.
He had been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of the 10 most wanted fugitives.
Osama bin Laden is now a trending topic on Twitter. See what people are discussing.
Obama used the opportunity of bin Laden's death to commend the American people.
“Tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever it is we set our minds to," he said.
Read the full statement or watch the address below: