The full extraordinary story of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden has been revealed for the first time by a member of the elite team that killed the arch terrorist in his secret lair in Pakistan.
Bin Laden was shot in the head by a ‘point man’ from the crack US Navy Seals unit as the Al Qaeda leader peered out through his narrowly-opened bedroom door.
Bursting into his room, the Seals then fired more rounds into his body as he lay on the floor in his death throes and as two of his wives wailed beside him.
The gruesome last moments of the 9/11 mastermind are revealed in a book by retired Seal Matt Bissonnette who took part in the raid and made sure Bin Laden was dead.
But the minute-by-minute account of the heart-stopping, top-secret raid has infuriated Pentagon lawyers who are demanding that its launch next week is cancelled.
Bissonnette, 36 – who uses the pen-name Mark Owen – is accused of breaching a secrecy commitment that he signed when he left active duty last April. And it has incensed Islamic fundamentalists, who have posted online death threats against the author.
Owen’s detailed account in his book, No Easy Day, tells how, on a moonless night on May 1, 2011, 24 US Navy Seals left their base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, for Bin Laden’s one-acre walled compound in Abbottabad.
The Seals, who were to operate in teams of three, travelled in two Black Hawk helicopters.
They knew that, as well as the terror chief, they could expect to find at the compound Khalid, one of Bin Laden’s sons, and Ahmed al-Kuwaiti and his brother Abrar al-Kuwaiti, who had acted as couriers for Bin Laden.
Owen tells how the mission soon hit difficulties when the plan to ‘fast-rope’ the Seals from one of the helicopters into the compound had to be rapidly revised when one of the Black Hawks – with Owen inside – crash landed inside the courtyard.
The other Black Hawk, which was supposed to fast-rope its passengers on to the roof of the main building in the compound, dropped them outside after seeing the crash. They were let inside by their shaken but uninjured comrades.
Owen says his team headed towards a guesthouse in the compound where they knew Ahmed al-Kuwaiti lived with his family. They also knew that the occupants had heard them coming.
The guesthouse was in darkness and had a set of metal double doors with windows at the top.
Owen describes kneeling at the side of the door while he attached an explosive charge. As one of his team headed towards the stairs that led to the roof of the guesthouse, AK-47 rounds from inside shattered the glass above the door, narrowly missing him and showering him in glass.
‘The first rounds always surprise the s*** out of you,’ he writes. Will, another member of Owen’s team, yelled in Arabic for al-Kuwaiti to come out while Owen returned fire. The door started to open and a woman called out.
Owen says that in the green glow of their night-vision goggles, the Seals could make out the figure of a woman clutching something in her arms. The first suspicion was that it was a bomb.
Owen recalls in his account how he started applying pressure to his trigger. Lasers on the Seals’ guns targeted the woman’s head – she could be dead in a second.
However the bundle was a baby. Al-Kuwaiti’s wife, Mariam, emerged with the infant and three more children behind her. Owen kept his weapon trained on her as she told them that Al-Kuwaiti was dead.
Owen says he spotted a pair of feet lying in the doorway of a bedroom and that he shot the body of al-Kuwaiti several times to make sure. With the guesthouse secured, the Seals sprinted to the main compound. Bin Laden’s house was split into a duplex and his family lived on the second and third levels and had their own private entrance.
A team led by a Seal referred to in the book as Tom was to clear the first level, according to Owen. Again, the building was dark but the soldiers’ night-vision goggles revealed a long hallway with two doors opening off on each side.
The point man – the leading Seal – spotted a man’s head sticking out of the first room on the left. The point man shot him and he disappeared back into the room. When the team reached the doorway the man, later identified as Abrar al-Kuwaiti, was writhing on the floor. The Seals opened fire on him. Al-Kuwaiti’s wife Bushra, who jumped in the way to shield him, was also killed.
Owen says a woman and several children were huddled in the corner crying. An AK-47 was found in the room and Tom unloaded it while the rest of the team searched the remaining rooms.
After one of the US troops blew up an iron gate blocking access to the second level, the Seals started filtering up a spiral staircase punctuated by small landings. When Owen reached the second level, he could see a body splayed out on its back on the landing above, between the second and third levels. One of the Seals had shot Khalid, one of Bin Laden’s sons, who had probably been living on the second floor.
By now, Owen writes, Seals were queuing up behind Owen on the staircase, and the second-level hallway already had sufficient troops to search and clear it, so he continued to the third level, up steps slick with blood and passing Khalid’s unused AK-47 propped up on a step.
‘We had planned for more of a fight,’ he writes. ‘For all the talk about suicide vests and being willing to shed blood for Allah, only one of the al-Kuwaiti brothers got off a barrage.’
He describes how, as he and his team slowly ascended the narrow stairwell, his ears strained to hear footsteps or the sound of a round being chambered. He was less than five steps from the top of the staircase when he heard shots.
He writes: ‘BOP. BOP. The point man had seen a man peeking out of the door on the right side of the hallway about ten feet in front of him. I couldn’t tell from my position if the rounds hit the target or not. The man disappeared into the dark room.’
They cautiously approached the room where they found two women, hysterically crying and standing over a man lying at the foot of a bed. The younger of the two women rushed at the point man who grabbed them both and herded them into a corner. Owen comments that had the women been wearing suicide vests, this action would have cost the soldier his life but saved those of his colleagues.
According to No Easy Day, the fallen man, wearing a white sleeveless T-shirt, tan trousers and a tan tunic, had been shot in the right side of his head.
‘Blood and brains spilled out of the side of his skull,’ writes Owen. ‘In his death throes, he was still twitching and convulsing.’
Owen and another Seal shot more rounds into his chest until he was motionless.
At least three children sat stunned in the corner of the room as the commandos cleared two small rooms just off the bedrooms. Other Seal teams cleared the rest of the third level until it was declared secure.
Owen and his comrades then examined the body.
He says: ‘The man’s face was mangled from at least one bullet wound and covered in blood. A hole in his forehead collapsed the right side of his skull. His chest was torn up from where the bullets had entered his body.
He was lying in an ever-growing pool of blood. As I crouched down to take a closer look, Tom joined me.
‘ “I think this is our boy,” Tom said.’
Owen writes that Tom did not want to report over the radio that this was Bin Laden because he knew that call would be rapidly relayed to Washington where President Obama was listening. The Seals wanted to be sure first.
The dead man was the correct height and looked like the composite photos the Seals had been given. They wiped the blood from his face using a blanket from the bed and he looked more familiar but younger than expected. It transpired his beard had been dyed.
Owen says he took photos of Bin Laden’s full body and then his head. ‘Pulling his beard to the right and then the left, I shot several profile pictures.’
He asked his colleague to hold Bin Laden’s ‘good eye’ open. ‘He reached down and peeled back the eyelid, exposing his now lifeless brown eye. I zoomed in and shot a tight photo of it.’
Meanwhile other Seals were collecting computers, videos and notebooks and a team was preparing to blow up the crashed Black Hawk.
The remaining Black Hawk and a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, that had set up a forward refuelling point 15 minutes from the compound, and was carrying a ‘quick reaction force’ of additional troops, were circling the compound, using up precious fuel. Time was pressing.
Owen says a comrade, ‘Walt’, took DNA samples by dipping a swab in Bin Laden’s blood and used another to swab his mouth.
He tried jabbing a spring-loaded syringe provided by the CIA to get a marrow sample from Bin Laden’s thigh but the needle did not work and he gave up after several attempts.
Owen says two sets of DNA samples and two sets of photographs were needed so that if one of the helicopters was shot down on its way back to Jalalabad, one set of evidence would survive.
Meanwhile, Seals were trying to get confirmation from Bin Laden’s wife, who had been wounded in the ankle, that the dead man was the Al Qaeda leader. She gave a series of aliases for him such as ‘the sheikh’.
Owen recalls how one Seal then approached the children outside on the balcony. ‘They were all sitting silently against the wall. Will knelt down and asked one of the girls, “Who is the man?”
‘The girl didn’t know to lie.’
‘ “Osama bin Laden.”
‘ “Are you sure that is Osama bin Laden?”
‘ “Yes,” the girl said.
‘ “OK,” he said. “Thanks.”
‘Back in the hallway, he grabbed one of the wives by her arms and gave her a good shake.
‘ “Stop f****** with me now,” Will said, more sternly than before. “Who is that in the bedroom?” ’
Owen continues: ‘She started to cry. More scared than anything else, she didn’t have any fight left.’
‘ “Osama,” she said.
‘“Osama what?” Will said, still holding her arm.’
‘ “Osama bin Laden,” she said.’
With dual confirmation, the Seals ‘called it in’ to Admiral McRaven in Jalalabad, who was keeping President Obama updated.
While the soldiers cleared the building of material that would provide useful intelligence, Owen watched two Seals drag Bin Laden’s body by his legs down the stairs.
Searching the tiny bathroom, Owen found a box of Just For Men hair dye, which he assumed was what Bin Laden used on his beard.
Owen records that he was surprised by how tidily Bin Laden kept his clothes. All of his T-shirts were neatly folded into squares and his clothes were hung evenly spaced.
He discovered a rifle and a pistol, neither of them loaded.
Owen writes about his surprise that Bin Laden ‘hadn’t even prepared a defence’. He says the terror leader had no intention of fighting, though he asked his followers for decades to wear suicide vests or fly planes into buildings.
He says: ‘In all of my deployments, we routinely saw this phenomenon. The higher up the food chain the targeted individual was, the bigger a pussy he was.’
He says leaders are less willing to fight and that it was always the young and impressionable who strapped on the explosives and blew themselves up.
He writes: ‘Did he [Bin Laden] believe his own message? Was he willing to fight the war he asked for? I don’t think so. Otherwise, he would have at least gotten his gun and stood up for what he believed.
‘There is no honour in sending people to die for something you won’t even fight for yourself.’
The Seals had now been in the compound for 30 minutes and were reluctant to leave areas unsearched but had no choice.
Owen says Bin Laden’s body was put into a body bag. As many of the women and children as possible were herded into the guesthouse to protect them from the explosion when the Seals blew up the crashed helicopter.
Owen’s group of Seals, which had Bin Laden’s body, travelled on the remaining Black Hawk which, as a smaller, more manoeuvrable aircraft, had less of a chance of being shot down than the CH-47.
In the Black Hawk, one of the Seals had to sit on Bin Laden’s body which lay at Owen’s feet in the centre of the cabin.
At one point during the flight to Afghanistan, he says, they searched the body again but found nothing and the Seal returned to his seat on Bin Laden’s chest.
Despite having the body at his feet, Owen writes that he felt a sense of failure that the teams had left intelligence behind because they had run out of time.
Back at base in Jalalabad, the Seals loaded the body on to the back of a truck. It was to be transported to Bagram.
Admiral McRaven asked to see it. Owen says he pulled the body bag from the truck.
‘It flopped on the cement floor like a dead fish. Kneeling down, I unzipped the bag. Almost all of the colour had faded from his face and his skin looked ashy and grey. The body was mushy and congealed blood had pooled at the bottom of the bag.
‘There’s your boy,’ I said.
Source: The Daily Mail