I killed bin Laden, says former US Navy SEAL
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A former US Navy Seal has come forward as the man who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on the al Qaeda leader’s Pakistan hideout in May 2011.
Robert O’Neill, 38, a highly decorated veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and who once rescued a ship captain from Somali pirates, revealed himself as bin Laden’s killer in an interview with the Washington Post, published Thursday, in which he said he agonised for months over his decision to publicly reveal his role.
O’Neill told the newspaper he was near the head of the column of US soldiers that raided bin Laden’s compound in the city of Abbottabad in northeastern Pakistan.
He said he fired the fatal bullet that struck bin Laden in the forehead, though he acknowledged that at least two other SEALs fired shots.
The former commando told the Post he decided to come forward ahead of planned media appearances next week when his identity was disclosed by SOFREP, a website operated by former SEALs.
SOFREP’s revelation was in protest at O’Neill’s decision to reveal his role in the mission.
The newspaper said two SEAL team members had corroborated his identity.
O’Neill had previously spoken about his role in the raid on bin Laden’s compound in a February 2013 interview with Esquire magazine, but his identity was concealed.
He told the magazine he had been located in the number two position for the attack on the al Qaeda leader’s bedroom.
Bin Laden briefly appeared at the door but the SEAL in front of O’Neill apparently missed his shot.
“I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway,” O’Neill said. “There was bin Laden, standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead.”
O’Neill said he could clearly identify bin Laden through his night-vision scope, despite the darkness of the room – and he fired.
The onetime SEAL said it was clear that bin Laden was dead as his skull was split.
The Post said O’Neill had long agonised over whether to go public but finally decided to do so after concerns that others would leak his identity, which was already known in military circles, by members of Congress and at least two news organisations.
He finally decided to come forward after meeting with relatives of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.
O’Neill said he decided on the spot to speak about how bin Laden died.
“The families told me it helped bring them some closure,” O’Neill told the Post.
But his decision has been met with anger from some of his SEAL colleagues.
In an October 31 letter to the Naval Special Warfare Command ranks, Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci and Rear Admiral Brian Losey stressed that a “critical tenet” of the force was to “not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my action”.
O’Neill had already served nearly 15 years as a SEAL by the time of the raid on bin Laden’s compound, and was serving in the elite SEAL Team Six unit.
In 2009, he served on a mission to rescue a ship captain from pirates off the coast of Somalia. The story was turned into a film starring Tom Hanks as the captain, Richard Phillips.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)