Osama bin Laden, A Saudi is dead following a military operation in Pakistan and the U.S. has recovered his body, U.S. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night.
"Justice has been done," the president declared as crowds formed outside the White House to celebrate, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "We Are the Champions,"
Obama said bin Laden, whom he called a terrorist "responsible for the murder of thousands of American men, women and children," was killed in Pakistan earlier in the day after a firefight in a military operation that was based on U.S. intelligence.
Charles Wolf of New York, whose wife, Katherine, died on Sept, 11, 2001, rejoiced at the news, which he called "wonderful."
"I am really glad that man's evil is off this earth forever," Wolf said. "I am just very glad that they got him."
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he had personally been informed by Obama of the death of the terrorist leader whose attacks forever defined his eight years in office.
"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," the former president said.
"The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Obama echoed his predecessor, declaring that "the death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's struggle to defeat al-Qaida."
But he stressed that the effort against the organization continues.
"We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad," he said, while emphasizing that "the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam."
Bin Laden shot in the head, U.S. says Officials had long believed that bin Laden was hiding a mountainous region along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In August, U.S. intelligence officials got a tip on his whereabouts, which led to the operation that culminated Sunday, Obama said.
U.S. officials told NBC News that U.S. Special Operations forces carried out the attack on the al-Qaida compound, killing bin Laden when they shot him in the head during a firefight.
The special operations forces returned with the body to Afghanistan, the sources said.
Reaction to the news was swift.
Bonnie McEneaney, 57, whose husband, Eamon, died in the 9/11 attacks, said the death of bin Laden was "long overdue."
"It doesn't bring back all the wonderful people who were killed 10 years ago," McEneaney told msnbc.com by phone from her home in New Canaan, Conn.
"I'm completely numb. I'm stunned," she said.
"The first thought I had in my mind was that it didn't bring my son back," Jack Lynch, who lost his son, New York City firefighter Michael Francis Lynch, on Sept. 11, 2001, told msnbc.com.
"You cut the head off a snake, you'd think it would kill the snake. But someone will take his place," Lynch said. "But people like him still exist. The fact that he's gone is not going to stop terrorism."
Lynch, 75, is a retired transit worker. His family's charity, the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation, has made grants to send dozens of students to college. He said he would not celebrate bin Laden's death.
"I understand that bin Laden was an evil person. He may have believed in what he was doing. I'm not going to judge him," Lynch said. "I'm sure some people will look at this and they'll be gratified that he's dead, but me personally, I'm going to leave his fate in God's hands."
Reaction from U.S. officials who have been entrenched in the battle against al-Qaida for years were more jubilant.