EU leaders today (2 May) hailed the demise of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was killed in a firefight with US forces in Pakistan. His death marks the end of a decade-long hunt for the mastermind of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
US President Barack Obama announced the news in a late-night speech and said Bin Laden's body had been recovered following the US-led operation near Islamabad.
"Justice has been done," President Barack Obama declared in a hastily-called, late-night White House speech. A source familiar with the US operation said Bin Laden was shot in the head.
Jubilant, flag-waving celebrations erupted in Washington and New York. It was the biggest national security victory for Obama since he took office in early 2009 and could give him a political boost as he seeks re-election in 2012.
A US official today said that Bin Laden had been buried at sea. He did not say where.
According to Reuters, Obama may now find it easier to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan, begun after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000.
But the operation could complicate relations with Pakistan. A US official said Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid only after it had taken place.
In a joint statement, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that Bin Laden was "a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people". His death makes the world a safer place and shows that such crimes do not remain unpunished, they added.
The EU leaders also said that the killing of Bin Laden was "a major achievement" in the efforts of the international community to rid the world of terrorism.
"The European Union continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States, our international partners and our friends in the Muslim world in combating the scourge of global extremism and in building a world of peace, security and prosperity for all," Van Rompuy and Barroso concluded.
European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said the international community had woken up to "a more secure world".
"Although the fight of the international community against terrorists is not over, an important step has been made in the fight against al-Qaeda, to give security to millions of people: Christians, Muslims, all those who believe in peaceful coexistence," he stated.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron said his country would have to remain vigilant following the killing of Bin Laden.
"Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead. But it is, I believe, a massive step forward," Cameron said.
He recalled that al-Qaeda had been responsible for ordering the deaths of British citizens both at home and in other parts of the world.
The killing of Bin Laden will deal a big psychological blow to al-Qaeda but may have little practical impact on an increasingly decentralised group that has operated tactically without him for years, experts said.
"As a matter of leadership of terrorist operations, Bin Laden has really not been the main story for some time," said Paul Pillar, a former senior US intelligence official, quoted by Reuters.
"I don't think there's any real military significance [to Bin Laden's death]," said Arturo Munoz, a security analyst at RAND Corporation.
"The significance is political and psychological and psychologically and politically, there's a huge significance."
"Bin Laden's death is a significant victory for the United States. But it is more symbolic than concrete," said Fawaz Gerges, an al-Qaeda expert at the London School of Economics.