NYC firefighters get the news about bin Laden's death via Times Square ticker. Photo: Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Twitter took a lead role in breaking the news last night that Osama bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In stories this morning, many report hearing the news first via tweet. Keith Urbahn, former chief of staff to former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is reported (by CNET and others) as the first reliable source to report on Twitter that bin Laden was dead.

Prior to that, White House comms director Dan Pfeiffer tweeted that President Obama would be making an announcement at 10:30 p.m. Even before that, Sohaib Athar, who goes by the name @ReallyVirtual, tweeted about hearing helicopters overhead in Abbottabad, “a rare event,” he wrote. Mashable says┬áthat he was actually tweeting the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

Forbes also has an interesting story about Twitter’s scoop and the impact it’s having on news and other areas. And Gigaom breaks down the “seven stages of news” in the social media age.