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How US mission against Osama ALMOST failed

Last updated on: May 19, 2011 08:16 IST

How US mission against Osama ALMOST failed

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The US Navy SEALs' raid on Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's hideout inside Pakistan ran into trouble after their original plan for a surprise assault was ruined when one of their helicopters clipped a wall, it has been revealed.

Five aircraft flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan, with three school-bus-size Chinook helicopters landing in a deserted area roughly two-thirds of the way to bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, the Daily Mail reports.

Aboard two Black Hawk helicopters were 23 SEALs, an interpreter and a tracking dog named Cairo, the report said.


Image: Part of a damaged helicopter is seen lying near Osama's mansion
Photographs: Reuters
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Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials close to the operation revealed how originally two SEAL teams were to enter bin Laden's house separately -- one from the roof and one from the ground. 

The aim was to 'squeeze' the Al-Qaeda chief as the raiders worked their way through the complex from both sides in search of their target.

But almost immediately, the raid ran into trouble after one of the specially adapted 'stealth' Blackhawk helicopters became unsteady and had to ditch -- nose first -- into the compound's courtyard, the report said.


Image: A Black Hawk helicopter

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Loosing the element of surprise, the SEALs switched to plan B as they busted into the ground floor and began a floor-by-floor storming of the house, working up to the top level where they had assumed bin Laden -- if he was in the house -- would be, the report added.

As three of the SEALs reached the top of the steps on the third floor, they saw bin Laden standing at the end of the hall, before he ducked into his room, the report said.

The three SEALs assumed he was going for a weapon, and one by one they rushed after him through the door, according to the description given by an official.


Image: This video frame grab, obtained from ABC News, shows the interior bedroom in the mansion where bin Laden was killed
Photographs: ABC News handout/Reuters
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Two women were in front of bin Laden -- yelling and trying to protect him -- two officials said, adding that the first SEAL grabbed the two women and shoved them away, fearing that they might be wearing suicide bomb vests.

It took approximately 15 minutes to reach bin Laden, one official was quoted as saying. 

Fearing he would detonate a suicide vest, the SEALS flung his wives aside before shooting him in the head and chest -- known as 'double tapping'.


Image: A satellite image of Osama's mansion in Abbottabad

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The next 23 minutes were spent blowing up the broken Black Hawk, after rounding up nine women and 18 children, to get them out of range of the blast.

Subsequently, one of the waiting Chinooks flew in to pick up bin Laden's body, the raiders from the broken aircraft, the weapons, documents and other materials seized at the site.


Image: The compound, within which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed, is seen in flames after it was attacked in Abbottabad in this still image taken from video footage from a mobile phone

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