Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S.-led military operation, President Barack Obama announced in an extraordinary address late Sunday night.
Special forces pulled off the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, earlier Sunday and recovered the body of the 9/11 mastermind.
"Justice has been done," Obama said.
In an era when it's rare for broadcast networks to cut into prime-time programming for news events, they broke into their shows about 10:45 p.m. EDT. Prime-time programs on the West Coast also were affected, including The Amazing Race, America's Next Great Restaurant and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Obama initially was scheduled to speak at 10:30 Eastern, but it got pushed back to about 11:35 p.m. In the interim, correspondents on the broadcast and news networks vamped for time after learning that bin Laden's death was going to be the subject of the president's speech. They discussed the ramifications of bin Laden's demise and what it augurs — including reprisals and retaliation from al-Qaida.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Obama said he had made the capture or killing of bin Laden a top priority with CIA Director Leon Panetta, and was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden's location last August. He said it took "many months" to verify the information. Last week, the president said, he "determined that we had enough intelligence to take action."
"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," Obama said. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body."
Obama also thanked the country of Pakistan, which aided the U.S. in their operation. "Going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaeda," the president said.
"The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's' effort to defeat al-Qaida," Obama said. "His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity."
The announcement came barely more than four months before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, orchestrated by bin Laden's al-Qaida organization, that killed some 3,000 people. It also came exactly eight years after then President George W. Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq — and on the 66th anniversary of when Adolf Hilter's death was announced.
"Earlier this evening President Obama called to inform me American forces killed Osama bin Laden," Bush said in a statement. "I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission."
Before the Obama spoke, live TV cameras focused on a growing, jubilant crowd outside the White House, chanting "USA ... USA ... USA" and singing The Star-Spangled Banner. And through the night, throngs gathered at ground zero in lower Manhattan and Times Square.
Watch Obama's address below: