US says he was unarmed, resisted
Wife was not used as a shield
WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was confronted by US commandos at his Pakistani hideout but tried to resist the assault, the White House said yesterday as new details emerged about the audacious raid that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist.
The updated Defense Department narrative of the raid also stated that bin Laden’s wife was not used as a shield and was not killed by US forces.
“In the room with bin Laden, a woman — bin Laden’s wife — rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,’’ the brief statement said. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.’’
The narrative clarified earlier statements from administration officials, including top counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan, that suggested bin Laden had a gun and used his wife as a shield. Subsequent reports said a gunman elsewhere in the compound had used a woman as a shield. Both were killed.
Other details that emerged, according to US officials: High temperatures caused a lumbering helicopter carrying the raiders to make a hard landing; as Navy SEALs swept through the compound, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of their target, code-named Geronimo; and once bin Laden had been shot, they doubled back to move the prisoners away from the compound before blowing up the downed helicopter.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told Time magazine that a strategy calling for a “direct shot’’ with cruise missiles on the compound was still under consideration as late as Thursday but was ruled out because of the possibility of too many civilian deaths. Waiting for more information also was a possibility.
Ultimately, President Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to descend onto the compound from helicopters under the cover of darkness.
The fuller picture of the high-stakes assault emerged as US officials weighed whether to release photos of bin Laden’s corpse and a video of his swift burial at sea. White House officials said they were concerned that the photos were gruesome and could be inflammatory. Bin Laden was killed with a shot above his left eye and much of his skull was blown away.
While reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body, the officials also said they were eager to address the stories already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.
Afghan Taliban spokesman Zabihullah said talk of bin Laden’s death was “premature,’’ adding that the United States had not presented “convincing evidence,’’ the SITE Intelligence Group reported.
Tomorrow, Obama is expected to visit ground zero in New York to mark the milestone of bin Laden’s demise and to remember the dead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.