Washington, May 4: Osama bin Laden, world's most wanted fugitive, was unarmed when US navy SEALs burst into his room and shot him to death, a far cry from his gun-toting image splashed across televisions worldwide for years.
The White House corrected the account of his death from the one given earlier saying that the 54-year-old al-Qaeda chief was not armed when US commandos confronted him raising questions about whether Washington ever planned to capture him alive.
“Bin Laden didn't have lot of time to speak to navy SEALs who burst on him,” CIA chief Leon Panetta said. “I don't think he had time to say anything,” the CIA chief said in an interview to PBS NewsHour. “It was a firefight going up that compound... I don't think he had any time to reflect it was all split-second.”
The CIA chief said that bin Laden had made “some threatening moves that clearly represented a clear threat to our guys. And that is the reason they fired.” Panetta's unfolding of the last moments of the most dreaded terrorist came as the White House continued to debate whether to release gruesome images of bin Laden's corpse, balancing efforts to demonstrate to the world that he was dead against the risk that photos could inflamed anti-US sentiments.
Earlier giving a recap of the events, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on orders of US President Barack Obama a small American team assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Laden.
“The raid was conducted with US military personnel assaulting on two helicopters. The team methodically cleared the compound, moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes. They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation, and Osama bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force,” Carney said.
“In addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound: one family on the first floor of the bin Laden building, and one family in a second building. One team began the operation on the first floor of the bin Laden house and worked their way to the third floor. A second team cleared the separate building,” he said.
“On the first floor of bin Laden's building, two al Qaeda couriers were killed, along with a woman who was killed in crossfire. Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building. There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation rather, and, indeed, he did resist,” he said.
“In the room with bin Laden, a woman rather, bin Laden's wife, rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.
“Following the firefight, the noncombatants were moved to a safe location as the damaged helicopter was detonated. The team departed the scene via helicopter to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea,” Carney said. “Aboard the USS Carl Vinson, the burial of bin Laden was done in conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. The deceased's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet.
“The body was placed in a weighted bag; a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, and the deceased body eased into the sea,” Carney said. The White House Press Secretary made it clear that the information is fresh and the administration will continue to gather and provide to the details as they get them and they are able to release them.
“The resistance was throughout. When the assaulter entered the room where Osama bin Laden was, he was rushed by one individual in the room, and the resistance was consistent from the moment they landed until the end of the operation,” he said.
Responding to questions, Carney said the Special Forces were prepared to capture him if that was possible. “We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance,” he said.
Though Laden himself was not armed, there were many other people who were armed in the compound. “There was a firefight,” he said, adding that it was a highly volatile firefight.
“He resisted. The US personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism and he was killed in an operation because of the resistance that they met,” he said.
A great number of people were unharmed and safely made secure after the operation was complete and the helicopter had to be detonated. But there was a firefight, he said. Carney said the people in the situation room, including the President, were just the observers, and were not issuing any command.
“The operation was run from the ground, or certainly not from the White House. The folks in the Situation Room were observers and listeners to an operation that obviously had been carefully thought out, meticulously prepared for.
The decision to go was the President's and obviously was a very weighty decision. Once it began, however, obviously, it was up to those who were taking the action to execute the plan,” he said. PTI