Slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. — File photo

ABBOTTABAD: Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people and put the United States on a decade-long war footing, was killed late Sunday night in Abbottabad by a joint American and Pakistani team, senior security officials said on Monday.

“Yes, I can confirm that,” one senior intelligence official told Reuters, but declined to give further details.

Another security official in Peshawar confirmed it was a joint operation between CIA and Pakistani security forces.

“It was carried out on a very precise info that some high-value target is there,” he said.

A Pakistani military helicopter crashed near Abbottabad on Sunday night, killing one and wounding two, according to Pakistani media. It was unclear if the crash was related to bin Laden's death, but witnesses reported gunshots and heavy firing before one of two low-flying helicopters crashed near the Pakistani Military Academy.

The police blocked the road leading to Pakistan's military academy, a Reuters photographer on the scene reported.

“I have seen tail and two wings of the chopper,” a labourer told Reuters. The fact bin Laden was apparently living in relative luxury not far from Islamabad could pose awkward questions for Pakistan.

“For some time there will be a lot of tension between Washington and Islamabad because Bin Laden seems to have been living here close to Islamabad,” said Imtiaz Gul, a security analyst.

“If the ISI had known then somebody within the ISI must have leaked this information. Pakistan will have to do a lot of damage control because the Americans have been reporting he is in Pakistan. This is a serious blow to the credibility of Pakistan.”

But defence analyst and former general Talat Masood said the fact bin Laden was killed in a joint operation would limit the damage to Pakistan's image. “There should be a sigh of relief because this will take some pressure off of Pakistan,” said defence analyst and former general Talat Masood. “Pakistan most probably has contributed to this, and Pakistan can take some credit for this - being such an iconic figure, it's a great achievement.”

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