ONLY one of the five people killed in the raid that got Osama bin Laden was armed and fired a shot, a senior defence official said yesterday, acknowledging this account differs greatly from original administration portrayals of a chaotic and prolonged firefight.
The sole shooter in the al-Qaida leader’s Pakistani compound was quickly killed in the early minutes of the commando operation, details that have become clearer now that the Navy SEAL assault team has been debriefed, the official said.
He said the raid should be described as a precision, floor-by-floor operation to hunt and find the al-Qaida leader and his protectors, rather than as it has been portrayed by Obama administration briefers since bin Laden’s death was announced Sunday night.
As the Navy SEALs moved into bin Laden’s compound, they were fired on by bin Laden’s courier, who was in the guesthouse, the official said. The SEALs returned fire, and the courier was killed, along with a woman with him. The official said she was hit in the crossfire.
They were never fired on again as they encountered and killed a man on the first floor and then bin Laden’s son on a staircase, before arriving at bin Laden’s room. Officials have said bin Laden was killed after he appeared to be lunging for a weapon.
White House and Defence Department and CIA officials through the week have offered varying versions of the operation, though the dominant focus was on a firefight that officials said consumed most of the 40-minute assault.
“There were many other people who were armed… in the compound,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday when asked if bin Laden was armed. “There was a firefight.”
NBC News, which was first to report that four of the five people killed were unarmed, said the majority of the operation was spent gathering up the compound’s computers, hard drives, cell phones and other items that could provide valuable intelligence on al-Qaida and potential operations worldwide.
Those materials have been taken to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia.
Picture: A Pakistani woman photographs her daughter at a gate of the compound where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed.
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