In an attempt to protect himself from arrest and win even more recruits to al-Qaida’s deadly cause, bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996. Meanwhile, the scale of al-Qaida’s attacks continued to increase. On August 7, 1998, bombs exploded simultaneously at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, where 213 people were killed and 4,500 were injured, and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, where 11 people were killed and 85 were injured. Al-Qaida took credit for the bombings. Then, on October 12, 2000, a small boat loaded with explosives plowed into the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, an American naval destroyer docked off the coast of Yemen. 17 sailors were killed and 38 were injured. Bin Laden took credit for that incident as well.
A federal grand jury in the United States indicted bin Laden on charges related to the embassy bombings, but with no defendant there could be no trial. Meanwhile, al-Qaida operatives were busy planning the biggest attack of all: the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Even in the frenzy of the post-September 11 “global war on terror,” bin Laden eluded capture. For almost ten years, he remained in hiding, issuing fatwas and taunts over radio and television, recruiting enthusiastic young jihadis to his cause and plotting new attacks. Meanwhile, the CIA and other intelligence officials searched in vain for his hiding place.
Finally, in August 2010, they traced bin Laden to a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 35 miles from Islamabad. For months, CIA agents watched the house while drones photographed it from the sky. Finally, it was time to move. On May 2, 2011 (May 1 in the United States), a team of Navy SEALs burst into the compound. They found the al-Qaida leader in an upstairs bedroom with a pistol and an assault rifle nearby and shot him in the head and chest, killing him instantly. “Justice,” said President Obama in a televised address to the nation that night, “has been done.”
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