US commando recounts bin Laden raid
This undated publicity film image provided by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. shows elite Navy SEALs raiding Osama Bin Laden’s compound in the dark night in a thriller, ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ AP PhotoThe Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has broken his silence, recounting the night he shot the al-Qaeda leader three times and the financial anxiety he now faces as an unemployed civilian.
The commando kept his identity secret in the Esquire magazine interview, but revealed his role in the daring May 2011 raid for the first time, as well as the worries he has for his family’s security. “He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting,” the SEAL said of bin Laden.
When the commandos came upon bin Laden in the dark on the third floor of his hideout in the town of Abbottabad in Pakistan, the al-Qaeda mastermind had his hands on his youngest wife’s shoulders, “pushing her ahead” and there was an AK-47 assault rifle nearby.
“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],” the commando said.
“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! Same place. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out.”
The Esquire article, which referred to the unnamed commando as “the Shooter,” focused on the Navy SEAL’s plight as an anonymous hero without a pension, health insurance or extra security for his family, with the title: “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... is Screwed.” The lengthy magazine profile came after another Navy SEAL who took part in the raid, Matt Bissonnette, published a book last year, “No Easy Day,” which drew the ire of Pentagon officials who allege he broke a pledge not to disclose classified information.
The article confirmed earlier accounts, including the one in “No Easy Day,” describing how once bin Laden was mortally wounded and collapsed on the floor, other SEALs shot him repeatedly in the chest and legs.
According to Esquire, the whole confrontation with bin Laden took only 15 seconds, but the most harrowing moment came earlier, when the shooter learned that one of the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters used in the raid had crash-landed at the compound. “We’re never getting out of here now,” he said.
“I thought we’d have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up...” After the raid, back at a base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the shooter brought over a female CIA officer, now made famous by the Hollywood film “Zero Dark Thirty,” to see bin Laden’s corpse.
“We looked down and I asked, ‘Is that your guy?’ She was crying,” he said. “That’s when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. ‘I hope you have room in your backpack for this.’ That was the last time I saw her.”
The CIA officer is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film as a relentless, dedicated agent, convinced after steadfastly monitoring the movements of a courier that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound.
Although he cited some details in the movie as unrealistic, the commando said the CIA character rings true. Because he left the U.S. Navy after 16 years of service, he does not qualify for a pension, which is awarded only to those who remain in uniform for at least 20 years.