Osama in Laden was shot on sight, says lurid first-hand account of ex-Navy SEAL
THE Pentagon is reviewing a new book about the death of Osama bin Laden after claims from a former Navy SEAL (Sea Air and Land team member) that the terrorist leader was shot on sight, contradicting the official US government account.
• Navy SEALs said Bin Laden had presented a ‘clear and present’ danger when fired upon
• Book alleges terrorist leader was shot when looking out of bedroom door
• SEALs accused of firing several shots into Bin Laden’s body as he lay injured in floor
During the raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011, members of the elite US team fired and probably struck Bin Laden the second his head appeared at a bedroom doorway, according to Matt Bissonnette, a member of the squad.
The official version released soon after the raid by military chiefs said that Bin Laden was shot only after he attempted to duck back into the bedroom, believed by his assailants to be going for a weapon and thus presenting “a clear threat”.
Mr Bissonnette’s book No Easy Day, written under the pseudonym Mark Owen and due out next week, also discounts the official version of the raid, particularly a 40-minute firefight between Seal Team 6 and Bin Laden’s bodyguards.
The book says no members of the raiding party were fired on outside the compound during the operation, which resulted in the deaths of Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, and four others including his son and a trusted courier.
Its publication, brought forward a week to next Tuesday by Penguin Books’ US subsidiary Dutton due to advance orders, was not authorised by the Pentagon. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman would yesterday say only that: “We have obtained a copy and are reviewing it.”
But Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory, spokesman for the US department of defence, said Mr Bissonnette, 36, a recipient of five bronze stars and a Purple Heart during his military career, had broken regulations.
He said any information about to military matters and intended for public release had to be cleared first, and that Mr Bissonnette, now a civilian, and Penguin had laid themselves open to legal action by the US justice department.
Bin Laden’s death was widely celebrated in the US and Mr Bissonnette’s account is unlikely to win the terrorist leader any sympathy.
It will, however, reopen a debate into what instructions were given to the military team before they raided the three-storey compound 100 miles from the Afghan border. US officials have always insisted the raid was a “kill-or-capture” mission in which Bin Laden was to be detained if he posed no threat.
According to Mr Bissonnette, several of the team were climbing a narrow staircase when they saw a man’s head poking out from the doorway.
“We were less than five steps from getting to the top when I heard suppressed shots, bop bop,” he writes. “I couldn’t tell if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room.”
Inside the bedroom, he said, he and others trained their laser sights on Bin Laden’s twitching body and fired several more rounds. “The bullets tore into him, slamming his body into the floor until he was motionless,” he wrote.
After the shooting, the Seal team took the body away in a helicopter towards an eventual burial at sea. One member of the team sat on Bin Laden’s chest during the journey, said Mr Bissonnette, a claim that contradicts the official claim that the corpse was treated with dignity.
Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, e-mailed a statement. “As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, ‘We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country’,” he said.
Mr Bissonnette also wrote that during a pre-raid briefing, a lawyer from “either” the White House or Defence Department told them that they were not on an assassination mission. He said the lawyer said that if Bin Laden was “naked with his hands up,” they should not “engage” him. If he did not pose a threat, they should “detain him”.
Mr Bissonnette claims none of the Seals were fans of president Obama and knew that his administration would take credit for ordering the May 2011 raid. One of the Seals reportedly said: “We’ll get Obama re-elected for sure. I can see him now, talking about how he killed Bin Laden.”
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