Long believed to be hiding in caves, bin Laden was tracked down in a costly, custom-built hideout not far from a Pakistani military academy.
"Justice has been done," President Barack Obama said in a dramatic announcement at the White House while a crowd cheered outside and hundreds more gathered at ground zero in Manhattan to celebrate the news.
Photos: America Reacts to death of Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden hid in plain site in Pakistan
Intel hunt led to shootout at bin Laden fortress
Special report: The death of Osama bin Laden
The military operation took mere minutes.
U.S. helicopters ferrying elite counter-terrorism troops into the compound identified by the CIA as bin Laden's hideout -- and back out again in less than 40 minutes. Bin Laden was shot in the head, officials said, after he and his bodyguards resisted the assault.Three adult males were also killed in the raid, including one of bin Laden's sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden's sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al Qaeda. U.S. officials also said one woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, and two other women were injured.
Video: Lara Logan on bin Laden's death
Mr. Obama chaired no fewer than five National Security Council meetings meeting on the pursuit of bin Laden, CBS News has learned, and gave the order to plan an attack on his suspected compound on the morning of April 29. He gave final order for the attack Sunday morning.
U.S. officials said the helicopter raid in Pakistan was carried out by CIA paramilitaries together with the elite Navy SEAL Team Six.
U.S. warns of possible bin Laden backlash
The U.S. official who disclosed the burial at sea said it would have been difficult to find a country willing to accept the remains. Mr. Obama said the remains had been handled in accordance with Islamic custom, which requires speedy burial.
"I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast," said Mohammad Haroon Rasheed, a resident of Abbottobad, Pakistan, after the choppers had swooped in and then out again.
Pictures: Osama bin Laden
Bin Laden's death marks a psychological triumph in a long struggle that began with the Sept. 11 attacks, and seems certain to give Mr. Obama a political lift. But its ultimate impact on al Qaeda is less clear.
The greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. is now considered to be the al Qaeda franchise in Yemen, far from al Qaeda's core in Pakistan. The Yemen branch almost took down a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas 2009 and nearly detonated explosives aboard two U.S. cargo planes last fall. Those operations were carried out without any direct involvement from bin Laden.
The raid on Osama bin Laden's compound
Moments after Mr. Obama spoke, the State Department put U.S. embassies on alert and warned of the heightened possibility for anti-American violence. In a worldwide travel alert, the department said there was an "enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counterterrorism activity in Pakistan."
Security at "strategic places in Pakistan has been beefed up as a precaution against any retaliation to news of Osama bin Laden's death", a senior Pakistani security official told CBS News early on Monday. "If he (bin Laden) is really dead, there will be attempts to seek revenge," said the official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.
The few fiery minutes in Abbottobad followed years in which U.S. officials struggled to piece together clues that ultimately led to bin Laden, according to an account provided by senior administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation.
What's next for al Qaeda?
One U.S. official said inside information was key to the successful operation. Detainees and cooperation from foreign authorities were crucial in providing information that led to his capture.
Based on statements given by U.S. detainees since the 9/11 attacks, officials said, intelligence officials have long known that bin Laden trusted one al Qaeda courier in particular, and they believed he might be living with him in hiding.