Osama bin Laden killed by U.S special forces in Pakistan
Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda, the organisation that claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the United States, along with numerous other mass-casualty attacks worldwide, was killed by U.S. special forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, just after 1:00 am local time.
Accounts of how bin Laden was located by U.S. intelligence differ. The White House and CIA director John Brennan stated that the process began with a fragment of information unearthed in 2002, resulting in years of investigation. This account states that by September 2010, these leads followed a courier to the Abbottabad compound, where the U.S. began intensive multiplatform surveillance.
According to journalist Seymour Hersh and NBC News, however, the U.S. was tipped off about bin Laden’s location by a Pakistani intelligence officer who offered details of where the Pakistani Intelligence Service held him in detention in exchange for a bounty. After confirmation, Operation Neptune Spear, was ordered by former President Barack Obama.
The operation was spearheaded by U.S. Navy SEALs, who flew into Pakistan on two modified Black Hawk helicopters from a staging base in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan. The Black Hawks appear to have been never-before-publicly-seen “stealth” versions of the helicopter that fly more quietly while being harder to detect on radar than conventional models.
The much larger Chinook helicopters were kept on standby “in a deserted area roughly two-thirds of the way” from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. Their mission was to interdict any Pakistani military attempts to interfere with the raid. Other Chinooks, holding 25 more SEALs, were stationed just across the border in Afghanistan in case reinforcements were needed. The helicopters were supported by multiple other aircraft, including fixed-wing fighter jets and drones.
According to the mission plan, the first helicopter would hover over the compound’s yard while its full team of SEALs fast-roped to the ground. At the same time, the second helicopter would fly to the northeast corner of the compound and deploy the interpreter, the dog and handler, and four SEALs to secure the perimeter. The team in the courtyard was to enter the house from the ground floor.
As they hovered above the target, the first helicopter experienced a hazardous airflow condition. Its tail rotor grazed one of the compound’s walls forcing the Black Hawk to crash land. However, none of the SEALs, crew and pilots on board were seriously injured. The other helicopter landed outside the compound and the SEALs scaled the walls to get inside.
Soldiers encountered the residents in the compound’s guest house, in the main building on the first floor where two adult males lived, and on the second and third floors where bin Laden lived with his family. The second and third floors were the last section of the compound to be cleared.
They made contact with bin Laden on the third floor of the main building. The jihadist leader peered through his bedroom door at the Americans advancing up the stairs, and then retreated into the room as the lead SEAL fired a shot, which either missed or hit him in the side.
Robert O’Neill, who later publicly identified himself as the SEAL who shot bin Laden, confronted bin Laden inside the bedroom. O’Neill said that bin Laden was standing behind a woman with his hands on her shoulders, pushing her forward. He immediately shot the the Al-Qaeda supremo twice in the forehead, then once more.
The SEAL team leader radioed, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo”, and then, after being prompted by McRaven for confirmation, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.” (enemy killed in action). Watching the operation in the White House Situation Room, Obama simply said, “We got him.”
The raid was intended to take 40 minutes. All told, the time between the team’s entry in and exit from the compound was 38 minutes. According to the Associated Press, the assault was completed in the first 15 minutes.
Since the helicopter that had made the emergency landing was damaged and unable to fly the team out, it was destroyed to safeguard classified equipment. One of the two Chinooks held in reserve was dispatched to carry part of the team and bin Laden’s body out of Pakistan.
According to Obama administration officials, U.S. officials did not share information about the raid with Pakistan until it was over. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen called Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani at about 3 am local time to inform him of the Abbottabad Operation.
Reports stated that bin Laden’s body was taken to Afghanistan for positive identification, then buried it at sea, in accordance with Islamic law, within 24 hours of his death. Subsequent reporting has called this account into question—citing, for example, the absence of evidence that there was an imam on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, where the burial was said to have taken place.