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CHILLING! A blow-by-blow account of killing Osama

Last updated on: August 2, 2011 10:03 IST

'There was never a question of capturing Osama'

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The US Navy SEALs pumped two 5.56-mm bullets to kill an unarmed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's garrison city Abbottabad, a media report said on Monday, providing new insight into the covert operation.

"There was never any question of detaining or capturing him -- it wasn't a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees," a special-operations officer in the raid was quoted as saying by The New Yorker magazine.

Six US helicopters -- two MH-60 Black Hawk and four MH-47 Chinooks -- were involved in the May 2 special operation to kill bin Laden, the weekly reported in its latest edition.

"The first round, a 5.56-mm bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye," the report said while detailing the blow-by-blow account of the special operation.

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Image: The compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where US soldiers killed Osama bin Laden
Photographs: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters
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'Osama's wives stood as human shields to protect him'

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On his radio, The SEAL personnel who shot the Al Qaeda mastermind, reported, 'For God and country-Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.' After a pause, he added, "Geronimo E.K.I.A."-"enemy killed in action."

The comprehensive report on the nearly 40 minute raid on 54-year-old Osama's hide out said that the climax began when a SEAL personnel stepped into Osama's bedroom and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on his chest.

Bin Laden, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed, the report said, while adding Osama's two wives tried to protect him by placing themselves as human shields.

The report said that Amal al-Fatah, bin Laden's fifth wife, was screaming in Arabic.


Image: Osama bin Laden is shown watching himself on television, with U.S. President Barack Obama also on screen, in this video frame grab released by the Pentagon
Photographs: Handout/Reuters
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'Neither woman was wearing an explosive vest'

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"She motioned as if she was going to charge; the SEAL lowered his sights and shot her once, in the calf. Fearing that one or both women were wearing suicide jackets, he stepped forward, wrapped them in a bear hug, and drove them aside;" the report.

"He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up, but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him. In the end, neither woman was wearing an explosive vest," the report said.

Before the mission commenced, the SEALs had created a checklist of code words that had a Native American theme.

Each code word represented a different stage of the mission: leaving Jalalabad, entering Pakistan, approaching the compound, and so on. "Geronimo" was to signify that bin Laden had been found, it said.


Image: Handout image shows a US Navy SEAL commander with his military dog
Photographs: Handout/Reuters
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Black Hawks with radar-dampening 'skins' were used

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The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters' exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening "skin."

Once the raid was over, four SEALs scoured the second floor, plastic bags in hand, collecting flash drives, CDs, DVDs, and computer hardware from the room, which had served, in part, as bin Laden's makeshift media studio.

The SEALs also found an archive of digital pornography.

"We find it on all these guys, whether they're in Somalia, Iraq, or Afghanistan," the special-operations officer said. Bin Laden's gold-threaded robes, worn during his video addresses, hung behind a curtain in the media room," the report added.


Image: A Black Hawk copter

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'A blunt sea burial to end Osama's myth'

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The magazine also reported on how US Navy SEALs gave Osama bin Laden a "blunt" sea burial to end his myth.

The US navy SEALs planned disposal of bin Laden's body on the basis on a similar burial they carried out for Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a top Qaeda leader in East Africa, in 2009.

But, US deputy national security advisor John Brennan did call up a former Saudi intelligence official, asking him whether the country was interested in taking the body of Laden as his relatives were there and once he was a citizen of Saudi Arabia. However, there was no positive response from the other side, the report stated.

"All along, the SEALs had planned to dump bin Laden's corpse into the sea -- a blunt way of ending the bin Laden myth," it said.


Image: US navy's USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, where Osama bin Laden was given burial ritual, is seen anchored off the Manila bay.
Photographs: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters
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'The process in strict conformance with Islamic practices'

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Nabhan's corpse was flown to a ship in the Indian Ocean and was given proper Muslim rites before being thrown overboard.

In the case of bin Laden's corpse, flip-wing V-22 Osprey flew the body from a US base in Afghanistan's Bagram to USS Carl Vinson -- a thousand-foot-long nuclear-powered aircraft carrier sailing in the Arabian Sea, off the Pakistani coast -- in another violation of Islamabad's airspace.

Once the body reached Carl Vinson, it was washed, wrapped in a white burial shroud, weighted, and then slipped inside a bag.

The process was done "in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices," Brennan later told reporters in Washington.

The shrouded body was placed "on an open-air elevator, and rode down with it to the lower level, which functions as a hangar for airplanes. From a height of between twenty and twenty-five feet above the waves, they heaved the corpse into the water," the magazine said.


Image: A man kisses a picture of Osama bin Laden during a protest in Cairo
Photographs: Asmaa Waguih/Reuters
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'None had a tape to measure Osama's body'

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Earlier, in Jalalabad, where the corpse was brought, a pair of SEALs unloaded the body bag and unzipped it so that man in charge of the mission Vice Admiral William H McRaven and the CIA station chief could see bin Laden's corpse with their own eyes.

Photographs were taken of bin Laden's face and then of his outstretched body.

54-year-old bin Laden was believed to be about six feet four, "but no one had a tape measure to confirm the body's length. So one SEAL, who was six feet tall, lay beside the corpse: it measured roughly four inches longer than the American," it said.

Minutes later, McRaven appeared on the teleconference screen in the Situation Room in the White House and confirmed that bin Laden's body was in the bag. The corpse was sent to Bagram.


Image: US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House
Photographs: Handout/Reuters
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