The raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan was a mission to kill him, and there was “never any question” he would be captured alive, one of those directly involved has claimed.
The most detailed account so far of the assassination of the world’s most wanted man describes the May 1 operation in Abbottabad as a “covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden”.
Published in The New Yorker magazine, it presents the strongest challenge yet to the Obama’s administration’s insistence that the al-Qaeda chief, codenamed “Crankshaft”, could have been captured if he had “conspicuously surrendered”.
An unnamed US special operations officer, said to be “deeply familiar with the bin Laden raid”, told the magazine that the 23 Navy Seals were clear that this was not the case.
“There was never any question of detaining or capturing him,” the officer said. “It wasn’t a split-second decision. No one wanted detainees.”
The plan, according to the article’s author, Nicholas Schmidle, was for the Seals to “overpower bin Laden’s guards, shoot and kill him at close range, and then take the corpse back to Afghanistan”.
In May, John Brennan, Mr Obama’s counter-terrorism chief, said the commandos would not have killed him if they were confident he was not wearing an “improvised explosive device on his body” or “some type of hidden weapon”.