Washington: Nearly two years after the daring US commando raid that killed the 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, a US Navy SEAL who pulled the trigger has recounted his role for the first time. Breaking his silence on the May 2011 raid on Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the commando told the Esquire magazine in an interview published Monday that he shot the Al-Qaeda leader three times.
"He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting," the SEAL, who kept his identity secret, was quoted as saying. When the commandos came upon Laden in the dark on the third floor of his house, the Al-Qaeda leader had his hands on his youngest wife's shoulders, "pushing her ahead", and there was an AK-47 assault rifle nearby.
"I'm just looking at him from right here," the SEAL said, moving his hand about 10 inches from his face, according to Esquire. "He's got a gun on the shelf right there, the short AK he's famous for. And he's moving forward."
"...He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off (blow himself up)," the commando was quoted as saying.
"In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place."
"He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath," he added.
According to Esquire, the whole confrontation with Laden took only 15 seconds. But the most harrowing moment came earlier, when the shooter learned that one of the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters used in the raid had crash-landed at the compound.
"We're never getting out of here now," he said. "I thought we'd have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up... That's when I got concerned."
The Esquire article, which referred to the unnamed commando as "the Shooter", portrayed on the Navy SEAL's plight as an anonymous hero who feels abandoned by the military he served for so long now that he's left the service. According to ABC News, the navy said Monday it could not corroborate any new details about the secret mission to kill Laden.
About the Shooter's after-service predicament, the navy said: "We take seriously the safety and security of our people, as well as our responsibility to assist sailors making a transition to civilian life."