Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was not armed when U.S. special forces stormed his compound in Pakistan — but he did resist capture before he was shot, the White House said.
A day after U.S. officials provided conflicting, and in some cases false, information about the raid, White House spokesman Jay Carney gave a more detailed account of the operation. He cited the “fog of war” as a reason for the misinformation.
“On orders of the president, a small U.S. team assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Osama bin Laden,” Carney said.
The team found three families, including bin Laden’s, at two different buildings in the compound.
Commandos cleared the building where one family lived, while another team entered the first floor of bin Laden’s house, where another family lived.
On that floor, U.S. forces killed two al Qaeda couriers along with a woman who was “killed in cross-fire,” Carney said, backing away from an earlier assertion that the woman had been used as a human shield.
Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the woman may have been the wife of one of the couriers. The commandos then found bin Laden and his family on the second and third floor.
“There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and, indeed, he resisted,” Carney said.
“A woman ... bin Laden’s wife, rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”
An official who has seen pictures of the body said bin Laden was shot at least once in the face.
The helicopter destroyed during the mission in Pakistan was a newer version of the two Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks that were shot down during a raid in Somalia in October 1993 that killed 18 soldiers.
» In Pakistan, the helicopter packed with soldiers made a “controlled but hard landing” after encountering higher-than-expected temperatures at bin Laden’s compound near Islamabad.
» The helicopter was not damaged by enemy fire, said one defense official.
» Troops seized at least five computer hard drives and up to 100 memory sticks — a “treasure trove of data” — according to U.S. officials.