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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Osama bin Laden not armed when killed

A boy looks over a wall in front of the compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad May 3, 2011. Bin Laden lived for the past five to six years in the compound deep inside Pakistan where the al Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. forces, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser said on Tuesday. Bin Laden, who was living in Afghanistan before a 2001 U.S.-led invasion helped topple its Taliban regime, was holed up in a compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad in Pakistan before Sunday's operation to kill him. (REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood)

A U.S. commando’s curt message to superiors signaled the end had come for the world’s most wanted terrorist: “Geronimo EKIA,” meaning enemy killed in action.

Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader who liked to pose with a menacing AK-47 assault rifle in his hand or by his side, was discovered without a gun by the Navy SEALs who barged into his room and shot him dead.

The White House on Tuesday gave a more complete picture of the assault — and corrected some key details from earlier official accounts — as the team that pulled off the storied raid in Pakistan briefed officials and rested back at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington.

The administration possesses graphic images of bin Laden’s corpse, at least one of which is likely to be released, according to CIA Director Leon Panetta. Officials hope that doing so would quiet any doubts that bin Laden is indeed dead. The worry is that anti-U.S. sentiment would be inflamed as a result.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., among the lawmakers who had the images described to them, played down that concern. “They’re not going to scare people off,” he said. “Nothing more than you’d expect with a person with a bullet in his head.”

Codenamed Geronimo after the Apache fighter of the late 1800s who was ultimately captured by the U.S., bin Laden was buried at sea from an American ship scant hours after his death.

White House officials initially suggested bin Laden had been holding a gun and perhaps firing at U.S. forces. The corrected account raised questions about whether the Americans ever planned to take him alive, or simply were out to kill him.

Panetta told “PBS NewsHour” that bin Laden “made some threatening moves” that “represented a clear threat to our guys” but was not more specific about what the unarmed terrorist did as the commandos engaged others at the compound in a firefight and burst into their prey’s room.

“I don’t think he had a lot of time to say anything,” Panetta said. “It was a firefight going up that compound. … This was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs.”

Panetta underscored that Obama had given permission to kill the terrorist leader: “The authority here was to kill bin Laden,” he said. “And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn’t appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him.”

After they shot him in the head and chest, the SEAL team in just minutes quickly swept bin Laden’s compound for useful intelligence, making off with a cache of computer equipment and documents. The CIA was hurriedly setting up a task force to review the material from the highest level of al-Qaida’s leadership.

The documents provide a rare opportunity for U.S. intelligence. When a midlevel terrorist is captured, his bosses know exactly what information might be compromised and can change plans. When the boss is taken, everything might be compromised but nobody knows for sure.

The revised account of bin Laden’s final moments was one of many official details that have changed since he was killed in the nighttime raid early Monday morning in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The White House misidentified which of bin Laden’s sons was killed — it was Khalid, not Hamza. Officials incorrectly said bin Laden’s wife died in gunfire while serving as his human shield. That actually was the wife of a bin Laden aide, and she was just caught in crossfire, the White House said Tuesday.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney attributed those discrepancies to the fog of war, saying the information was coming in bit by bit and was still being reviewed. Nevertheless, the contradictory statements may raise suspicions about the White House’s version of events, given that no independent account from another source is likely to emerge. The only non-U.S. witnesses to survive the raid are in Pakistani custody.

Five people were killed in the raid, officials said: bin Laden; his son; his most trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti; and al-Kuwaiti’s wife and brother. The latest White House account leaves open the question of whether there was any gunfire from bin Laden’s defenders in his room before the commandos shot him.

President Barack Obama prepared to visit New York City’s ground zero on Thursday to mark the end to one of history’s most intense manhunts and to remember anew the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the hands of bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization.

In Washington, questions flew about whether Pakistan was complicit in protecting the mastermind of those attacks. Several Republicans and Democrats in Congress have raised the possibility of cutting off U.S. aid to Pakistan. The Pakistani government has denied suggestions that its security forces knew anything about bin Laden’s hideout or failed to spot suspicious signs in a city with a heavy military presence.

In a closed-door briefing for lawmakers Tuesday, Panetta said, “Pakistan was involved or incompetent,” a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

Pakistan criticized the American raid in its sovereign territory as “unauthorized unilateral action.”

While tensions grew, efforts also were apparent to contain the damage in an important if checkered relationship. The Obama administration pushed back against the talk of punishing Pakistan. So did Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who said, “Having a robust partnership with Pakistan is critical to breaking the back of al-Qaida and the rest of them.”

And Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that despite difficult relations with Pakistan, “They have allowed us to pursue our drone program. We’ve taken out over 16 of the top 20 al-Qaida leaders because of that. That’s cooperation.”

For the long-term legacy of the most successful counterterrorism operation in U.S. history, the fact that bin Laden was unarmed is unlikely to matter much to the Americans he declared war against. President George W. Bush famously said he wanted bin Laden “dead or alive,” and the CIA’s top counterterrorism official once promised to bring bin Laden’s head back on a stake.

Yet just 24 hours before the White House acknowledged that bin Laden had been unarmed, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said, “If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.”

Will it matter around the world? Some may try to make much of it in Pakistan and elsewhere.

“This country has gone through a lot of trauma in terms of violence, and whether or not he was armed is not going to make a difference to people who were happy to see the back of him,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst and columnist in Pakistan. Yet, he said, “The majority have a mistrust of America, and this will reinforce their mistrust of America.”

Obama and his national security team followed the operation as it unfolded, watching television monitors, the air thick with tension at the White House. Nerves were raw when one of the two Black Hawk helicopters that descended into the bin Laden compound Monday fell heavily to the ground. Officials believe that was due to higher-than-expected air temperature that interfered with the chopper’s ability to hover — an aeronautical condition known as “hot and high.”

The SEALs all got out of the downed helicopter and proceeded into the compound. As they swept through the property, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of their target. Many SEAL team members carry helmet-mounted cameras, but the video beamed back to Washington did not show the fateful showdown with bin Laden, officials said.

That word came from the SEALs on the ground: “Geronimo EKIA.” The CIA’s makeshift command center erupted in applause as the SEALs helicoptered to safety.


Associated Press writers Chris Brummitt in Islamabad, Nahal Toosi and Zarar Khan in Abbottabad, and Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Pauline Jelinek, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee and Calvin Woodward in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

12 thoughts on “Osama bin Laden not armed when killed”

  1. Guys, how could this have been done without all the backlash? We had OBL in our gun sights before and let him go. The people went manic. So this time, our intelligence was right and our leader and his entire group went ahead and shot him dead. Torture is illegal but ignored by the Bush Administration who now want full credit for this killing. So how should it have been done?.

    I feel certain that the men involved understood he might have been wearing a vest so they shot him in the eye…..twice. From what I’m hearing and reading and listening to around my place here is that nobody would believe that Obama (being a Muslim) would ever tell the truth. So what do we do?

    Do we have to find another President who will have the courage to act as Obama has done but maybe a little less dark? I am not a Democrat and have never voted for a Democrat but I have been fairly pleased with the sanity shown by our current leader. I try to question many who despise President Obama and ask for specifics on why they hate him so and in every case they believe he is a Muslim and the enemy of America 100%. He is a black Muslim period!

    I just moved out of a State who believes this crap and headed home to a socially liberal California. Is there any place on this planet where people can be respected without showing a birth certificate or proof of a white father?

    I am more than willing to give credit to President Obama for his courage and his choice of others around him. I am fond of Leon Panetta and would be thrilled if he made it into the Secretary of Defense position. Of course I knew him as a Republican but he left the party a couple of years before I did and understand why he left.

    We are all responsible for electing a corrupt government and apparently a corrupt White House. Is the answer to bring in Donald Trump? Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann?

    I am sick with distrust with every one who listens to and repeats Rush Limbaugh’s comments. I told one woman today that Rush is a liar and she said “good” as we need some sense thrown into the government. Here’s a woman who wears a huge heavy gold cross around her neck. I wanted to tell her that she is the only terrorist I know but I held my tongue.

    Unless something is done, the election in 2012 will replace President Bush with another man just like him. Boener? Romney? Trump? Holy shit!

  2. Pest extermination at its finest. This cockroach has been squished and now that avoids a circus “trial” as some legal hump tries to explain away his actions by not taking his meds or having a nasty childhood.

  3. The point is assassination is illegal under US and international law but is being routinely used by Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama and his predecessor in the WOT.

    Native Americans likewise should be outraged at the use of the name Geronimo as the terrorist’s codename as if Geronimo was a terrorist and not fighting for his own land and people.

    We are no longer a nation of laws but a rogue nation of men that will do whatever they want and justify it under the guise of keeping us safe from terrorists. That’s Bush Doctrine in a nutshell. Where’s the change we could believe in?

    • Woody188, some are upset that Geronimo’s name was used. However, I have yet to hear of anyone being upset when Geronimo’s name is shouted as some young Airborne GI jumps out of a perfectly good airplane.

      ps: what is a WOT?

  4. So what?

    SO we killed OBL when he was unarmed. Who cares?

    OBL killed 2,819 unarmed innocents, worse still 8 children were murdered by him that day.

    May his God judge him fairly and justly, then let him burn….

  5. Keith, no Navy Seal will ever disclose any part of any action. We had one here at CHB until he died of unknown causes. I announced his death here and many of CHB members were wonderful knowing I emailed their replies to his widow. We meet few real heroes in our short time on this earth. I have many relatives who have served in all levels of law enforcement.

    Why would we assume anything was wrong or illegal with this action? Is it because we are members of one party at war with the other members of another party? it is because we breed liars like Donald Trump who gathers the unwashed masses like a piper running rats out of town?

    I will wait for the first 3 books written on the subject of this action before I dare to make a judgment. I am still searching for a party of leadership somewhere in this sick illusion we call America.

    • Sandune,

      That’s why I said “unless and until”. I, too, don’t expect them to share that info with anyone.

      Nor should they.

  6. We can “Monday Morning Quarterback” the entire operation over and over again…and many of these so-called “experts” will continue to do so ad nauseum.

    But, as Jim has so eloquently noted above, unless you were a Navy SEAL and actually in the room, you and I simply don’ t have a CLUE as to what actually went on in that room and how our SEALS reacted to it.

    Unless and until one of THEM speaks up that what they did was wrong, or illegal, or unethical, I’m giving these courageous military members…people who put their own lives on the line in this operation…the benefit of the doubt.

  7. How would the raiding party ascertain if he was wearing a suicide vest or not?
    According to “some” reports the assault team was engaged in an ongoing firefight for 40 minutes. Certainly enough time for OBL to don his vest.
    Training for this type of operation involves looking for weapons and observing hands, not looking at faces. Any type of hand movement by the target would elicit exactly the type response he got. It should be an elementary assumption that could he have been SAFELY restrained alive he would certainly be a great intelligence asset. But then again, had he survived, the democrats and libs would have wanted him tried in NYC by a jury of his peers.

  8. The title of this commentary makes it sound as if “poor defenseless Obama was killed in cold blood.” This is the kind of crap that will send Trump into replace Obama in the White House. The moment I heard the news, I feared it would come back and haunt Obama for the action.

    Please tell me the title was used with tongue in cheek!

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