Washington, May 3: 'Operation Geronimo' that killed Osama bin Laden was executed by a 79-member US commando team that raced into Abbottabad from a base in Jalalabad in Afghanistan on a moonless night before Pakistani authorities could sense a breach of their territory and react possibly violently.
By the time, Pakistani military was scrambling forces in response to the incursion into their territory everything was over.
"Thankfully, there was no engagement with the Pakistani forces," John Brennan, President Barack Obama's Adviser on counter-terrorism, said on the 40-minute operation in the small hours of Monday not far away from Pakistan's capital Islamabad.
On Sunday, the White House officials cancelled all public tours of the West Wing Area in the President's House so that unsuspecting terrorists wouldn't run into security officials moving in and out of the situation room, from where the run-up to the operation was being monitored.
A little after 2 PM (local time), CIA chief Leon Panetta detailed the operation to the group headed by the President in the situation room for the last time. Within an hour, he declared: "They (the team) have crossed into Pakistan."
The aim was to get in and get out of Pakistan, across the border in Afghanistan, before their breach can be detected by Pakistani authorities.
The US Naval Seals team stormed into the million-dollar mansion where Osama was living and a fire-fight broke out with the terrorists inside.
The commandos found bin Laden on the third floor wearing salwar kameez and US officials said he put up a fight before he was shot above the left eye near the end of the operation.
"Whether or not he got off any rounds, I frankly don't know," Brennan told a press conference. But officials said he was "killed by US bullets", US media reported.
Brennan said they would have taken bin Laden alive if he had not presented any threat.
A picture taken by a Seals commando and processed through facial recognition software suggested a 95 percent certainty that it was Bin Laden. Later, DNA tests comparing samples with relatives found a 99.9 percent match, The New York Times reported.
But, the Americans faced other problems. One of their helicopters stalled and could not take off. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos moved the women and children, who were unharmed in the operation, to a secured area and destroyed the defective chopper.
By that point, though, the Pakistani military was scrambling forces in response to the incursion into Pakistani territory. "They had no idea about who might have been on there," Brennan said.
As they took off at 1:10 am (Pakistan time), taking a trove of documents and computer hard drives from the house, the Americans left behind the women and children., who are under Pakistani custody.
After determining that it would follow Islamic tradition of burial within 24 hours, the US concluded bin Laden would have to be buried at sea, since no country would be willing to take the body. Moreover, they did not want to create a shrine for his followers.
"So the Qaeda leader's body was washed and placed in a white sheet in keeping with tradition. On the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, it was placed in a weighted bag as an officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker," the Times said quoting a Pentagon official.
The body then was placed on a prepared flat board and eased into the sea. Only a small group of people watching from one of the large elevator platforms that move aircraft up to the flight deck were witness to the end of America's most wanted fugitive. PTI