THE man who killed Osama bin Laden has told his story for the first time, describing how he fired two bullets at the al-Qaeda leader’s head to make sure he had no time to detonate any explosives.
• Bin Laden grabbed youngset wife as shooter entered room
• Former Navy Seal has trained his children to hide in bathtub should his house be attacked
• Ex-soldier says he has recieved little support since leaving active service
In an adrenaline-laden account published by Esquire magazine, the unnamed member of Seal Team 6 also said the mission had left him scared for his children’s safety and struggling to pay the bills.
On the night of the raid, almost two years ago, he explained how he and one other commando paused at the stairs to the third floor, where the world’s most wanted man was hiding, waiting for the rest of their team.
“By then we realized we weren’t getting more guys. We had to move, because bin Laden is now going to be grabbing some weapon because he’s getting shot at,” he said.
While the point man dealt with two screaming women, using his body to smother any detonations, the shooter – as he has been nicknamed - pressed on up the stairs into the last room to be cleared.
There was the objective: A face he recognised from Seal “kill houses” where bin Laden’s likeness was had been attached to targets.
“I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once,” he said.
There was no time to think. It came down to training, repetition and muscle memory as bin Laden moved forward, shoving Amal, his youngest
wife, in front of him.
“He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s
being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack
himself off [blow himself up].”
Bin Laden crumpled with the first shot. A second finished the job.
“And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done? This is real and that’s him.”
It was an extraordinary moment for a man whose career had begun on something of a whim. At the age of 19, after a girl broke his heart,
he found himself almost by accident in a Navy recruitment office.
“That’s the reason al-Qaeda has been decimated,” he revealed, “because she broke my f***ing heart.”
The raid on the town of Abbottabad, deep inside Pakistan, decapitated the world’s most feared terrorist organisation, ending a 10-year manhunt.
It also cast a long shadow over relations between Washington and Islamabad, which was embarrassed to find the world’s most wanted man hiding in plain sight, far from the caves on the Afghan border where many though he still lurked.
It has also changed the Shooter’s life forever. After one more four-month deployment to Afghanistan, he left the military ending a 16-year career that included more than 30 kills.
“I’m not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was.”
That mission has come at a high personal cost.
The relationship with his wife has suffered. They have declared themselves separated but still live together to keep down costs.
More chilling are the security risks. He has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of any trouble. They have been told not to mention bin Laden’s name to anyone.
His wife now knows how to use a shotgun, sitting on the bed with its butt braced against the wall.
They keep a “bolt” bag of clothes, food, and other provisions – enough for the family stay in hiding for two weeks if necessary.
“Personally,” said his wife, “I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago,” when her husband joined Seal Team 6.
The Seal command has told him they could give him a new identity but that he could never contact his family or friends again.
“They told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee,” he said during a series of interviews conducted by Phil Bronstein, of the Center for Investigative Reporting, which reveal how tough life can be for American servicemen when they come home. “We’d lose everything.”
The transition to civilian life has brought money worries, he said, with little support other than advice to wear a tie to job interviews.
While others have cashed in on their role with books or as advisers to computer game developers, the man who fired the fatal shots refuses to
break the military code and go public. Instead, he is offering occasional discreet consulting services for “select audiences”.
“He’s taken monumental risks,” said his father, expressing anger as well as pride. “But he’s unable to reap any reward.”