New York, Aug 2: US commandos, who killed Osama bin Laden in a covert operation on May 2 in Pakistan, had been practising along with a Belgian Malinois dog for the D-Day for nearly a month with a replica of the al-Qaeda leader's Abbottabad compound.
A team of two dozen navy SEALs from Red Squadron were asked to report to a densely forested site in North Carolina for a training exercise on April 10.
Red Squadron is one of four squadrons in DEVGRU (Naval Special Warfare Development Group), which has about 300 operators.
None of the SEALs, barring two, were aware of the CIA intelligence on bin Laden's compound till a particular date. A replica of the compound had been built at the site, with walls and chain-link fencing marking the layout of the compound. The team spent the next five days practising maneuvers, the New Yorker magazine said in its latest issue bringing into light new aspects of the entire operation, which was codenamed Operation Neptune's Spear.
“On April 18th, the DEVGRU squad flew to Nevada for another week of rehearsals. The practice site was a large government-owned stretch of desert with an elevation equivalent to the area surrounding Abbottabad."
“An extant building served as bin Laden's house. Aircrews plotted out a path that paralleled the flight from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. Each night after sundown, drills commenced,” the report said.
Twelve SEALs boarded ‘Helo one' chopper. Eleven SEALs, interpreter Ahmed (name changed) and Cairo, the dog, boarded ‘Helo two'. The pilots flew in the dark, arrived at the simulated compound and settled into a hover while the SEALs fast-roped down.
The report said not everyone on the team was accustomed to helicopter assaults. Ahmed had been pulled from a desk job for the mission and had never descended a fast rope. He quickly learnt the technique.
The assault plan was now honed. Helo one was to hover over the yard, drop two fast ropes and let all 12 SEALs slide down into the yard. Helo two would fly to the northeast corner of the compound and let out Ahmed, Cairo and four SEALs, who would monitor the perimeter of the building. The copter would then hover over the house, and the remaining seven SEALs would shimmy down to the roof. As long as everything was cordial, Ahmed would hold curious neighbours at bay. The SEALs and the dog could assist more aggressively, if needed.
Then, if bin Laden was proving difficult to find,Cairo could be sent into the house to search for false walls or hidden doors. “This wasn't a hard op,” an unnamed special-operations officer was quoted as saying.
“It would be like hitting a target in McLean” - the upscale Virginia suburb of Washington.
However, the operation did not go as planned because one helicopter had crashed just outside the compound. Instead of scaling down on the roof of the house, the commandos had to bomb their way into the premises. PTI