Washington, D.C. Archives:

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — A public memorial service for American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, will be held at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on September 13, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on Tuesday.

A NASA spokesperson said family and friends of Armstrong will join the public memorial service to honor the life and career of the astronaut. Among those attending will be NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of Washington.

“Dignitaries, community and political leaders, and members of the NASA family, including current and former astronauts will attend,” a statement from NASA said. “A very limited number of seats will be made available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Details regarding the service and participants will be released as plans are finalized.”

Armstrong served as commander during the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing mission, in July 1969. He immediately rose to fame around the world for being the first man to land a craft on the moon and then the first man to step on its surface, after which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin explored it for over two hours.

People from around the world gathered around their television sets to watch coverage of the moon landing and to hear Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped onto the moon’s surface. “That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, as he became a part of history.

Armstrong died at a hospital in Ohio on August 25 as a result of complications from cardiovascular procedures. He had underwent surgery due to blocked coronary arteries earlier that month, just days after celebrating his 82nd birthday. It remained long unclear whether a public memorial service would be held as Armstrong often shunned publicity.

Armstrong was laid to rest during a private, family memorial service in Cincinnati, Ohio, last Friday. U.S. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation which ordered the flag of the United States to be flown at half-staff on the day of the funeral, which was attended by a number of politicians.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Two F-16 fighter jets intercepted a small airplane near Washington, D.C. Saturday after the pilot failed to respond to radio communications, military officials said on Sunday. The aircraft was later allowed to proceed when contact was established.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said the incident happened at around 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) when a Beechcraft King Air airplane approached the Washington Metropolitan Area and failed to respond to repeated radio communications.

Two F-16 fighter jets, under the direction of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, immediately responded and intercepted the small plane. “Following the intercept the aircraft re-established radio communications with air traffic control and was allowed to proceed to its destination,” NORAD said in a brief statement, giving no other details.

NORAD is tasked to prevent air attacks against North America and safeguard the sovereign airspaces of both the United States and Canada by responding to unauthorized air activity in or near these airspace. The organization is allowed to monitor, shadow, divert from flight path, direct to land and even destroy targets which are deemed to be a security threat to North America.

Last month, two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets intercepted a Sunwing Airlines Boeing 767-300 near Quebec City after the plane failed to respond to radio communications. The fighter jets were able to assist the aircraft in re-establishing radio communications with air traffic control, and the airliner proceeded without incident to its destination. It was on a flight from Paris to Toronto.

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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS (BNO NEWS) — A man from Massachusetts who is accused of plotting to fly remote-controlled model planes packed with explosives into the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol has agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said on Tuesday. He faces 17 years in prison.

Rezwan Ferdaus, who is also known as Dave Winfield or Jon Ramos, was arrested in September 2011 in connection with his alleged plans to destroy the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol by using remote-controlled model planes filled with C-4 plastic explosives. He believed he had been in contact with al-Qaeda members but was actually talking with undercover FBI officers.

In return for a sentencing recommendation of 17 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, Ferdaus has now agreed to plead guilty to attempting to damage and destroy a federal building by means of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to terrorists. Prosecutors have also agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against him.

“The plea agreement filed today is subject to review and acceptance by the district court,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that a date for the change-of-plea hearing has not yet been set. Ferdaus had previously pled not guilty to the charges.

Ferdaus allegedly delivered detailed attack plans with step-by-step instructions to undercover officers as to how he planned to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol. The plans included using three remote-controlled aircraft and six people, including himself whom he described as a leader.

“I just can’t stop. There is no other choice for me,” Ferdaus allegedly said in recorded conversations with a cooperating witness and undercover officers. Ferdaus allegedly said he envisioned causing a large “psychological” impact by killing Americans, including women and children, whom he referred to as “enemies of Allah.”

Prior to the plea deal, Ferdaus faced up to 55 years in prison.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Former Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star pitcher Roger Clemens was acquitted Monday of all six criminal counts against him on charges that he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.

The not guilty verdicts were announced at 4:45 p.m. local time in a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C. ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn, who was in the courtroom during the entire trial, noted that Clemens was smiling and laughing with his attorney before the verdict was announced, while the prosecution table was “stone faced.” Following the reading of the verdict, Clemens was seen squeezing his attorney’s hand.

Judge Reggie Walton then said, “Mr. Clemens, you’re free to go.”

Clemens later thanked his supporters and teammates in a brief statement. “I want to thank those people who took time out of their schedules to come in on my behalf,” he said. “It’s kind of uncomfortable for me to sit there and hear people talk about you, good or bad. But I just want to say I appreciate everyone who came in.”

Clemens said the lengthy trial has been hard on his family, who gathered around him along with supporters as he spoke to journalists. “Really all you media guys that know me and follow my career,” he said, before choking up and being applauded. “I put a lot of hard work into that career,” he added. “So again, I appreciate my teammates that came in and all the emails and phone calls.”

His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said “justice won out” and praised the jury. “It’s been 4.5 years since we listened to a picture that doesn’t match up at all with the man we have known, grown to know and love,” he said. “He was not only a seven time Cy Young winner, he’s a hell of a man. And anybody that attended this trial, and listened to that evidence, hopefully now knows it. And those of you who didn’t attend, get the record. I have believed and loved in this man – and this whole team has – for 4.5 years.”

Clemens was first charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing Congress in August 2010. The charges stemmed from a February 2008 deposition leading up to a televised hearing on steroid use in baseball. Clemens claimed that he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but his name was mentioned 82 times on George Mitchell’s Report on Steroid Use in Baseball.

Following the deposition, Clemens’ former strength coach Brian McNamee claimed to have personally injected Clemens with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with Human Growth Hormone in 2000. Clemens denied these charges. He first went to trial on the six charges in July of last year, but a mistrial was quickly called after the prosecution brought in evidence that U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had previously disallowed.

Prosecutors decided to retry Clemens and jury selection began in April. A jury of four women and eight men listened to 26 days of testimony from 46 different witnesses, including investigators, DNA experts, baseball officials and former teammates of Clemens.

Clemens had a 24-year Major League Baseball career with five different teams. He was an 11-time all-star, 7-time Cy Young award winner, and the 1986 American League Most Valuable Player. He retired following the 2007 season.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — A federal grand jury on Tuesday indicted a 21-year-old man with the attempted assassination of U.S. President Barack Obama after he fired two shots at the White House in November 2011. He faces life in prison.

The jury returned a 17-count indictment against Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez which charges him with attempting to assassinate the President of the United States, assaulting officers of the United States with a deadly weapon, injury to U.S. property, and related firearms charges.

The incident happened on November 11 when gunshots were heard in the 1600 block of Constitution Avenue, about 700 to 800 yards (640 to 730 meters) from the White House. Several days later, authorities discovered damage to an exterior window of the White House.

“A round was stopped by ballistic glass behind the historic exterior glass,” a U.S. Secret Service spokesman said in November. “One additional round has been found on the exterior of the White House.”

Within five minutes of the shots being heard on November 11, officers located a vehicle in the 2300 block of Constitution Avenue. Evidence in the vehicle led to U.S. Park Police obtaining an arrest warrant for 21-year-old Ortega-Hernandez. He was arrested on November 16 at a hotel in Indiana, Pennsylvania.

“On or about November 11, 2011, in the District of Columbia, the defendant, Oscar Ortega-Hernandez, did knowingly attempt to kill the President of the United States, Barack Obama,” the indictment alleges. It adds that damage to the White House was in excess of $1,000.

Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were in California at the time of the shooting, but prosecutors previously said Ortega-Hernandez was “deadly serious about eliminating the president” and viewed Obama as “the devil” or the “anti-Christ.” He also believed the federal government was ‘conspiring against him.’

Ortega-Hernandez has denied the charges and claimed his car had been stolen and that he never owned a gun, even though his fingerprints were found on ammunition magazines in the vehicle. His federal public defender said his client expects to enter a not-guilty plea.

If convicted, Ortega-Hernandez could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — U.S. authorities are investigating how a bullet hit an exterior window of the White House in Washington, D.C., officials said on early Wednesday morning. The bullet was found days after gunshots were heard nearby.

The U.S. Secret Service said the damage to an exterior window of the White House was discovered on Tuesday morning. “A round was stopped by ballistic glass behind the historic exterior glass,” a spokesman said. “One additional round has been found on the exterior of the White House.”

Authorities have not yet conclusively connected the bullets to an incident on late Friday evening when gunshots were heard in the 1600 block of Constitution Avenue, about 700 to 800 yards (640 to 730 meters) from the White House.

Within five minutes of the shooting, officers located a vehicle in the 2300 block of Constitution Avenue. Evidence in the vehicle led to U.S. Park Police obtaining an arrest warrant for 21-year-old Oscar Ortega-Hernandez on a felony charge of carrying a dangerous weapon.

Ortega-Hernandez is described as a 5’11″ (1.80 meters) tall medium build Hispanic male, weighing about 160 pounds (72 kilograms). He has brown eyes and black hair. Officials believe the suspect is still in the D.C. area.

“Due to the proximity of this incident to the White House, Friday evening the Secret Service opened an investigation of the subject Ortega-Hernandez,” the spokesman said. “Efforts to locate Ortega-Hernandez continue at this time.”

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were in California at the time of the shooting on Friday.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — Dorothy Howell Rodham, the mother of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the mother-in-law of former President Bill Clinton, died in Washington, D.C. on early Tuesday morning. She was 92.

A statement from the Clinton family said Rodham died shortly after midnight local time in Washington, D.C. while surrounded by her family. “Her story was a quintessentially American one, largely because she wrote it herself. She overcame abandonment and hardship as a young girl to become the remarkable woman she was,” the statement said.

The Clinton family said a celebration of her life will be held for family and friends. “Her family is and will be forever grateful for the gift of Dorothy’s life and for the memories they will treasure forever,” the statement added.

The cause of Rodham’s death was not immediately known but the news came just hours after U.S. officials confirmed that Clinton had canceled her scheduled trips to London and Turkey so she could be by the side of her mother.

In 1942, Rodham married Hugh Ellsworth Rodham with whom she had three children; Hillary, Hugh and Tony. She usually stayed out of the public eye although she appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2004 and was seen in a 30-second campaign advertisement for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“What I would like people to know about Hillary is what a good person she is,” Rodham said in the TV commercial. “She never was envious of anybody – she was helpful. And she’s continued that with her adult life with helping other women.”

Rodham added: “She has empathy for other people’s unfortunate circumstances. I’ve always admired that because it isn’t always true of people. I think she ought to be elected even if she weren’t my daughter.”

In June 2008, when Clinton announced she was suspending her campaign for president, Rodham could be seen wiping away tears. Hugh Rodham, Clinton’s father, died in April 1993.

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NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — Authorities in the United States arrested a man last month who is accused of working with the Iranian government to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. during a bomb attack in Washington, D.C., prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen holding both Iranian and U.S. passports, was arrested on September 29 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. His contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, has also been charged in connection with the plot but remains at large.

“The Department of Justice is announcing charges against two people who allegedly attempted to carry out a deadly plot that was directed by factions of the Iranian government to assassinate a foreign ambassador here in the United States,” said Attorney General Eric Holder during a press conference on Tuesday.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, Arbabsiar is alleged to have orchestrated a $1.5 million assassination plot with Shakuri, an Iranian-based member of the Qods Force, and other Iranian co-conspirators. The Qods Force is a special operations unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is accused of sponsoring and promoting terrorist activities abroad.

According to the allegations, Arbabsiar and his co-conspirators in Iran plotted the murder of the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, between May 2011 and October 2011. He met on a number of occasions in Mexico with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent who was posing as an associate of a violent international drug trafficking cartel.

“The [first] meeting, which took place in May in Mexico, was the first of a series that would result in an international conspiracy by elements of the Iranian government to pay the informant $1.5 million to murder the Ambassador on U.S. soil, according to documents we filed today in court,” Holder said. “According to the complaint, those discussions led Arbabsiar – with Shakuri’s approval – to facilitate the wiring of approximately $100,000 into a bank account in the United States as a down payment for the attempted assassination.”

The complaint alleges that Arbabsiar met with the undercover DEA agent in Mexico on May 24 where Arbabsiar inquired as to the agent’s knowledge with respect to explosives and explained that he was interested in, among other things, attacking an embassy of Saudi Arabia.

In the following weeks, in June and July, Arbabsiar returned to Mexico and held additional meetings with the agent during which he allegedly explained that his contacts in Iran had discussed a number of violent missions for the agent and his associates to perform, including the murder of Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir.

On July 14, while meeting in Mexico, the undercover agent told Arbabsiar that he would need four men to carry out the Ambassador’s murder and that his price to carry out the assassination was $1.5 million. Arbabsiar allegedly agreed and stated that the murder of the Ambassador should be handled first, before the execution of other attacks.

During the same meeting, according to the court documents, Arbabsiar also told the agent that his cousin is a ‘big general’ in the Iranian military who focuses on matters outside Iran and that he had taken certain, unspecified actions related to a bombing in Iraq. The Iranian government has previously been accused of funding and supporting attacks in Iraq.

Several days later, on July 17, the agent told Arbabsiar that one of his workers had already traveled to Washington, D.C. to surveill the Ambassador. He also raised the possibility of innocent bystanders being killed, but Arbabsiar allegedly urged the agent to go forward despite the likelihood of mass casualties.

“They want that guy done, if the hundred go with him fuck ‘em,” Arbabsiar allegedly told the agent when discussing the plan to carry out a bomb attack on a restaurant which the Ambassador frequently visits. When the agent noted that U.S. Senators who dine at the restaurant could also be killed, Arbabsiar allegedly said that would be “no big deal.”

On August 1 and August 9, with Shakuri’s approval, Arbabsiar caused two overseas wire transfers totaling approximately $100,000 to be sent to an FBI undercover account as a down payment for the DEA agent to carry out the assassination. Arbabsiar later explained to the agent that he would pay the remainder of the $1.5 million after the assassination was carried out.

Nearly two months later, on September 20, the DEA agent informed Arbabsiar that the operation was ready and requested that Arbabsiar either pay one half of the agreed upon price for the murder or that Arbabsiar personally travel to Mexico as collateral for the final payment of the fee. According to the complaint, Arbabsiar agreed to travel to Mexico to guarantee final payment for the murder.

Just over a week later, on September 28, Arbabsiar flew to Mexico which triggered an arrest warrant to be issued. “The aforementioned arrest warrant triggered an immigration alert by Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) in accordance with the established procedures,” the Mexican government said in a statement.

Because of the arrest warrant, Arbabsiar was denied entry into Mexico and returned to the starting point of his journey. “In strict compliance with domestic and international law, Mexico was able to neutralize a significant risk to Mexico’s national security, while at the same time reinforcing bilateral and reciprocal cooperation with the United States,” the Mexican government said.

The next day, upon his arrival at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Arbabsiar was arrested by federal agents. According to court documents, he allegedly confessed to his participation in the murder plot during interviews.

According to the complaint, Arbabsiar also admitted to agents that, in connection with this plot, he was recruited, funded, and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in Iran’s Qods Force. He allegedly said these Iranian officials were aware of and approved of the use of the DEA agent in connection with the plot, the payments to the the agent, the means by which the Ambassador would be killed in the United States and the casualties that would likely result.

Both Arbabsiar and Shakuri have been charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, conspiracy to engage in foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), and conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries. Arbabsiar is further charged with an additional count of foreign travel and use of interstate and foreign commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire.

After the details of the alleged plot were made public, U.S. President Barack Obama called Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir to underscore that the U.S. government believes the plot to be a ‘flagrant violation’ of U.S. and international law. Obama also attended a meeting of his national security team to discuss the alleged plot and thank law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Meanwhile, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. expressed its appreciation to the agencies of the U.S. government. “The attempted plot is a despicable violation of international norms, standards and conventions and is not in accord with the principles of humanity,” the Embassy said in a statement.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — A series of tweets and a fake news story from The Onion reporting a shooting and hostage situation at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Thursday led to outrage and a police investigation.

The prank began at around 9.30 a.m. local time when The Onion, a satirical news publication, posted a message to its 3.1 million subscribers on the social networking website Twitter. “BREAKING: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building,” the message said.

The tweet raised the question whether The Onion’s account had been hacked or whether it was a joke, and some even took it seriously although the site is widely known to only publish fake news. “I work at the Capitol and I just yelled at my coworkers that there was gunfire… you scared the s* out of me,” one Twitter user said.

About ten minutes after the initial post, The Onion posted a follow-up message claiming that 12 children had been taken hostage by a group of armed Congressmen. “Reports from those who know Congress say the legislative body had seemed desperate as of late,” another message said.

The satirical news publication took it a step further on its website where it posted a fake photo of House Speaker John Boehner holding a gun against the head of a little girl. “If the money is not delivered by this evening, members of Congress say they will shoot a new child every hour on the hour,” the caption said, referring to a supposed $12 trillion ransom.

However, the U.S. Capitol Police was not amused and in response sent out a statement to journalists. “It has come to our attention that recent Twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current conditions at the U.S. Capitol,” a statement from spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said.

Schneider added: “There is no credibility to these stories or the Twitter feeds. The U.S. Capitol Police are currently investigating the reporting.”

On social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook, some people responded with outrage and saying it was inappropriate. “Enough already. It’s not even funny and you’re freaking people out while joking of children being killed,” Joseph Gonzales wrote on Twitter.

Other people did find it funny or criticized people for overreacting to the fake reports. “Amazed by moronic overreaction to #CongressHostage gag,” Jay Schiappa tweeted. Kevin Snow said: “I love that some people still fall for @TheOnion. The #CongressHostage tweets today and the reaction have made my day.”

The Onion was founded in 1988 and, in addition to its website, also publishes satirical articles in a print edition. In September 2009, two Bangladeshi newspapers were forced to apologize after it reported that U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong had told a news conference that the Moon landings were an ‘elaborate hoax’. The Bangladeshi reports were based on a story published by The Onion.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. cities of New York and Washington, D.C. have increased their security amid a ‘specific and credible’ terror threat surrounding the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said on late Thursday evening.

U.S. officials announced earlier on Thursday that they are aware of a “specific, credible but unconfirmed” threat to the U.S. homeland. U.S. media, citing unnamed sources, reported that at least three individuals have entered the United States to carry out a car bomb attack in New York or Washington, D.C.

As a result, security is being increased in both cities while intelligence agencies gather more details about the alleged plot, which ABC News reported was ordered directly by the new al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to avenge Osama bin Laden’s death earlier this year.

“Our state law enforcement agencies are in contact with federal and local agencies,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “All New Yorkers should be cautious and aware as we prepare to commemorate the 9/11 anniversary. However, there is no reason to panic or allow our spirit of freedom to be dampened.”

Ray Kelly, the Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), said a number of measures had already been taken due to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. “However, in light of this new threat information, we are taking additional precautions,” Kelly said at a late night news conference.

Kelly said the NYPD will hold all its personnel for an additional four hours from Friday through at least Monday, increasing by a third the number of officers on duty. “We are also increasing the number of critical response vehicle surges, that’s where dozen of police cars respond to predetermined locations for counterterrorism coverage,” he said.

The NYPD Commissioner also announced that it would set up a number of vehicle checkpoints at various locations throughout the city. “We are also increasing the number of bag inspections on the subway system and the number of police vehicles on patrol equipped with license plate readers,” he added.

Further, the NYPD will send more bomb dogs on patrol and an increased deployment of radiation monitoring equipment, especially at vehicle checkpoints. “There will be an increased focus on tunnels and bridges and infrastructure in general, as well as landmark locations, houses of worship, and government buildings,” Kelly added.

In Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, Mayor Vincent Gray said the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will step up security in ways both visible and unseen, but said there are no plans to cancel events. Officials urged residents in both New York and Washington, D.C. to report suspicious activity to 311 or, if urgent, to 911.

The news on Thursday evening represents a sudden change from previous statements just days earlier when U.S. officials insisted there was no credible intelligence that al-Qaeda or its affiliates were plotting a 9/11 anniversary attack, indicating that the new intelligence received came in very recently.

On Sunday, the United States will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 ,2001, attacks, when nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger planes before crashing two of them into the World Trade Center in New York and another into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth, United Flight 93, crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.

Earlier this week, Pakistan announced it arrested senior al-Qaeda member Younis Al Mauritani. According to Pakistani officials, Al Mauritani was mainly responsible for planning international operations and had been personally tasked by the late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Bin Laden was killed in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 1st by special U.S. forces during a secret operation.

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