Ex-Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill has confirmed to the Washington Post that he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden, more than three years after the al-Qaeda leader’s death.
This contradicts the account of Matt Bissonnette, another former SEAL involved in the raid, in a 2012 book.
Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 Navy SEAL raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Navy SEALs usually abide by a code of silence that forbids them from publicly taking credit for their actions.
Robert O’Neill, who retired in 2012, had previously told his story anonymously to Esquire magazine.
He was scheduled to reveal his identity in a television interview later this month, but news of the interview angered other former SEALs.
A website run by ex-special forces personnel published his name pre-emptively, apparently in protest at his decision to claim credit for the shooting.
Robert O’Neill, 38, said he and another member of the team – whose identity remains secret – climbed the stairs to the third floor of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and saw Osama bin Laden poke his head outside the door of one of the rooms.
The unnamed commando, at the “point position” leading the column, fired at him but missed, according to Robert O’Neill.
Ex-Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill has confirmed to the Washington Post that he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden
An instant later, Robert O’Neill went into the room and killed Osama with shots to the head, he says.
However, in the book No Easy Day, Matt Bissonnette claimed it was the point man who killed Osama bin Laden.
On November 6, Matt Bissonnette did not directly dispute Robert O’Neill’s claim, in an interview with NBC News.
“Two different people telling two different stories for two different reasons,” Matt Bissonnette told the broadcaster.
“Whatever he says, he says. I don’t want to touch that.”
Matt Bissonnette is scheduled to appear on the CBS news magazine programme 60 Minutes ahead of the publication of his second book, No Hero, about his service with the SEALs.
Meanwhile, he is under investigation for potentially disclosing classified information in his first book, which is about the Bin Laden raid.
The official account of what happened is unlikely to be disclosed by the US government for many years.
Pentagon officials have neither confirmed nor denied Robert O’Neill’s account, but senior special operations leaders sent a letter last week to all Navy SEALs urging them to comply with their code of silence about operational details, including avoiding taking “public credit”.
“We do not abide wilful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain,” they wrote.
Osama bin Laden was confirmed killed in the raid and his body was buried at sea.
Darkness and close quarters inside the compound have made some Navy SEALs question whether it is possible to determine whose bullets killed the al-Qaeda leader.
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The first interview has been aired with former Navy Seal member Matt Bissonette, who wrote a first-hand account of the May 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, No Easy Day.
Former Navy Seal Matt Bissonette, who uses the pseudonym Mark Owen, was interviewed by CBS television network.
He repeated his claim that Osama Bin Laden was shot as soon as he looked out of his bedroom, contrary to the official version of events.
The Pentagon has said it may sue Matt Bissonette for divulging military secrets.
In the interview, Matt Bissonnette defended what he said was the manner of Osama Bin Laden’s death.
Former Navy Seal Matt Bissonette, who uses the pseudonym Mark Owen, was interviewed by CBS television network
“If a guy sticks his head around the corner he very easily could have a gun,” he told CBS’ 60 Minutes programme.
“You don’t wait to get that AK or the grenade thrown down the hall or the suicide vest,” he added.
He said that Osama Bin Laden was still moving after the first shot and was shot again when the Seals entered the room.
“[The Seals] couldn’t see his hands. So, he could’ve had something. Could’ve had a hand grenade or something underneath his chest,” Mark Owen said.
US officials had stated he was shot only after he had ducked back into the bedroom, prompting fears he might be grabbing a weapon.
Matt Bissonette told of a later meeting with President Barack Obama at which the Navy Seals refused to tell him which of them had shot Osama Bin Laden.
“Pulling a trigger is easy…. It’s not about who that one person was, it’s about the team… that teed this whole thing up,” Matt Bissonette said.
“Who cares who the one person is. Doesn’t matter,” he added.
The book was not reviewed ahead of publication by the Pentagon, CIA or the White House – and officials had warned that criminal charges could result from the improper disclosure of secret information.
The Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, has written to the author to inform him that “in the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed.”
The Pentagon is considering “all remedies legally available to us”, the letter added.
The Pentagon announces it may sue former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonette, who has written a first-hand account of the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
The Department of Defense’s top lawyer has informed Matt Bissonette that he has violated agreements not to divulge military secrets.
He signed two non-disclosure forms with the Navy in 2007, the Pentagon said.
The book, No Easy Day, which was written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, is due to be released on September 11.
Matt Bissonette book, No Easy Day, which was written under the pseudonym Mark Owen, is due to be released on September 11
It was not reviewed ahead of publication by the Pentagon, CIA or the White House – and officials had warned that criminal charges could result from the improper disclosure of secret information.
The Pentagon’s general counsel, Jeh Johnson, wrote to the author on Thursday that his non-disclosure forms had obliged him to “never divulge” classified information.
The letter said: “In the judgment of the Department of Defense, you are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed.”
The Pentagon is considering “all remedies legally available to us”, the letter added.
It was reported this week that No Easy Day contradicts the official story of the raid.
The book says Osama bin Laden was shot dead as soon as he looked out of his bedroom as SEAL’s rushed up the stairs, according to the Associated Press news agency, which has seen an advance copy.
But US officials have stated he was shot only after he had ducked back into the bedroom, prompting fears he might be grabbing a weapon.
The book also reveals that the commandos were not big fans of President Barack Obama, even though they applauded his decision to launch the operation.
Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in No Easy Day, claims that Osama bin Laden was dead when Navy SEAL’s burst into his bedroom.
The book is to be published next week by Penguin Group (USA)’s Dutton imprint.
Matt Bissonnette says he was directly behind a “point man” going up the stairs in the pitch black hallway.
“Less than five steps” from top of the stairs, he heard “suppressed” gunfire: “BOP. BOP.”
The point man had seen a “man peeking out of the door” on the right side of the hallway.
The author writes that Osama bin Laden ducked back into his bedroom and the SEALs followed, only to find the terrorist crumpled on the floor in a pool of blood with a hole visible on the right side of his head and two women wailing over his body.
Matt Bissonnette says the point man pulled the two women out of the way and shoved them into a corner and he and the other SEALs trained their guns’ laser sites on Osama bin Laden’s still-twitching body, shooting him several times until he lay motionless.
The SEALs later found two weapons stored by the doorway, untouched, the author said.
Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen in No Easy Day, claims that Osama bin Laden was dead when Navy SEAL’s burst into his bedroom
Osama bin Laden as wearing a white t-shirt, loose-fitting tan pants and a tunic.
In the account related by administration officials after the raid in Pakistan, the SEALs shot Osama bin Laden only after he ducked back into the bedroom because they assumed he might be reaching for a weapon.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor would not comment on the apparent contradiction late Tuesday. But he said in an email: “As President Obama said on the night that justice was brought to Osama bin Laden, <<We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country>>.”
No Easy Day was due out September 11, but Dutton announced the book would be available a week early, September 4, because of a surge of orders due to advance publicity that drove the book to the top of the Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com best-seller lists.
The Associated Press purchased a copy of the book on Tuesday.
The account is sure to again raise questions as to whether the raid was intended to capture or simply to kill bin Laden. Matt Bissonette writes that during a pre-raid briefing, a lawyer from “either” the White House or Defense Department told them that they were not on an assassination mission.
According to Matt Bissonnette, the lawyer said that if Osama bin Laden was “naked with his hands up”, they should not “engage” him. If Osama bin Laden did not pose a threat, they should “detain him”.
In another possibly uncomfortable revelation for U.S. officials who say Osama bin Laden’s body was treated with dignity before being given a full Muslim burial at sea, the author reveals that in the cramped helicopter flight out of the compound, one of the SEALs called “Walt” – one of the pseudonyms the author used for his fellow SEALs – was sitting on bin Laden’s chest as the body lay at the author’s feet in the middle of the cabin, for the short flight to a refueling stop inside Pakistan where a third helicopter was waiting.
This is common practice, as troops sometimes must sit on their own war dead in packed helicopters. Space was cramped because one of the helicopters had crashed in the initial assault, leaving little space for the roughly two dozen commandos in the two aircraft that remained. When the commandos reached the third aircraft, Osama bin Laden’s body was moved to it.
Matt Bissonnette writes disparagingly that none of the SEALs were fans of President Barack Obama and knew that his administration would take credit for ordering the May 2011 raid. One of the SEALs said after the mission that they had just gotten Obama re-elected by carrying out the raid.
But he says they respected him as commander in chief and for giving the operation the go-ahead.
Matt Bissonnette writes less flatteringly of meeting Vice President Joe Biden along with Barack Obama at the headquarters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment after the raid. He says Joe Biden told “lame jokes” no one understood, reminding him of “someone’s drunken uncle at Christmas dinner”.
Beyond such embarrassing observations, U.S. officials fear the book may include classified information, as it did not undergo the formal review required by the Pentagon for works published by former or current Defense Department employees.
Officials from the Pentagon and the CIA, which commanded the mission, are examining the manuscript for possible disclosure of classified information and could take legal action against the author.
In a statement provided to The Associated Press, the author says he did “not disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way”.
Matt Bissonnette’s real name was first revealed by Fox News and confirmed to The Associated Press.
Jihadists on al-Qaeda websites have posted purported photos of the author, calling for his murder.