Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bin Laden the "Coward" Hid Behind a Lady Before Being Killed

Abbottabad, Pakistan - It took 10 years to find him—and just 40 minutes to take him out.
Two Black Hawk helicopters—carrying 20 to 25 elite Navy SEAL commandos armed to the teeth with weapons and night-vision goggles—departed on their ultra-secret mission from the Ghazi air base in northwest Pakistan under cover of darkness at around 12:30 a.m. Monday local time in Pakistan (3:30 p.m. Sunday in New York).
It was the moment that America had been dreaming about since 9/11—finally nailing terror chief Osama bin Laden.
But the unit, SEAL Team Six, wasn’t in some wild, lawless region of Pakistan. Instead, it was about to land in leafy, suburban Abbottabad, Pakistan, just a short drive from the capital of Islamabad and less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy.
As the team reached its destination—a heavily fortified, nearly windowless, triangular compound in the area—the SEALs prepared to be dropped to the ground.
For weeks, at the Bagram air base in neighboring Afghanistan, the US military counterterrorism team had been training for the assault in an exact replica of the compound. Their mission was so top secret that they weren’t even told at first who they were training to capture.
They had planned to hover over the compound in the aircraft and then rapidly rappel down ropes, landing inside the structure’s 12- to 18-foot walls to surprise their prey—the al Qaeda founder code-named “Geronimo”—and his cohorts inside.
But in reality, the operation turned hot immediately.
Guards loyal to the terror kingpin spotted the choppers and opened fire with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.
Then, suddenly, one the MH-60 choppers—infamous for crashes, including one in 1993 in Mogadishu—apparently stalled in midair, either from mechanical failure or enemy gunfire.
Disaster loomed even before the first American boot could touch soil.
“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here,” said John Brennan, the White House chief terrorism adviser, who, like President Obama, monitored the assault in real time from the Situation Room in DC. Aided by a SEAL’s helmet cam, they watched in amazement as the hero US pilot at the helm of the disabled chopper refused to accept defeat.
He managed to make a rough but controlled landing, and his team and that from the other chopper leaped into action, guns blazing.
“Bullets were flying. It was very frightening,” Gul Zaman, a trader who lives about 200 yards from the bin Laden lair, told The Times of London.
The SEALs were fighting to make their way to their goal—the main, three-story building in the center of the $1 million compound surrounded by barbed wire.
Intelligence indicated that bin Laden was living on the second and third floors, which conveniently had 7-foot walls surrounding their balconies, perfect for a 6-foot-6 man like bin Laden to discreetly stand outside in the fresh air without being seen.
But while he might have been hidden to the outside world, he wasn’t out of sight of US satellite cameras. In recent months, he had been apparently photographed leaving the main house every day to spend an hour walking around the courtyard, CBS reported.
One photo eventually caught him inside the house, presumably by a window, and was rushed straight to Obama, who then started stepping up hush-hush meetings for the attack. This was around mid-March, according to The Daily Mail of London.
US authorities also said they had other proof that bin Laden was in the compound.
They said they had a voice recording of him there that had been picked up by a CIA microphone. They analyzed it with past confirmed recordings—and they were a match, the Mail said.
At the time of the assault, there were roughly 20 men, women and children—some bin Laden’s relatives—in the compound with him. The SEALs spent 30 minutes fighting their way past most of them as the forces cleared a path through the first and second floors before finally arriving to the top floor.
There—either in a room or hallway—they found bin Laden, whose lanky frame and thin, bearded face was clearly recognizable, Pentagon officials said.
One of bin Laden’s wives even identified him by calling out his name, Time said last night on its Web site.
A SEAL who spotted him yelled, “Geronimo!”
Obama and his aides were now aware bin Laden was finally moments away from annihilation.
But like the coward he was, in his final moments, bin Laden hid behind a woman.
“There was a female who was, in fact, in the line of fire that was reportedly used as a shield to shield bin Laden from the incoming fire,” Brennan said.
“Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these [terror] attacks [against US civilians], living in this million-dollar-plus compound hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield.”
Bin Laden—who already killed more than 3,000 Americans in the 9/11 attacks—sought to take out another one or two US soldiers.
“He was engaged in a firefight. Whether or not he got off any rounds, I don’t know,” Brennan said. Still, the SEALs did what they were trained to do. Bin Laden, his son Khalid, 24, and the female human shield were all killed.
The Saudi-born terror mastermind was felled by a “double tap,” meaning he was killed instantly by one bullet—and then had a second one pumped into him for good measure just to make sure he was dead, National Journal reported.
The kill shot ripped just above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull. The other bullet reportedly went through his chest.
“If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that,” Brennan said.
But another US security official later said, “This was a kill operation,” noting that the United States knew bin Laden would never settle for being taken alive.
In Washington, Obama got his first indication that bin Laden had been killed when a Navy SEAL sent the simple coded message saying, “Geronimo E-KIA.”
Bin Laden had been code-named for the Apache chief who had long eluded authorities and launched attacks on white settlers in the late 1880s. The “E-KIA” stood for “enemy killed in action,” ABC reported.
His lifeless body was positively identified on the scene by one of his wives—he had at least four.
But just to be sure, members of the US force measured his height and used an advanced facial recognition technology device.
DNA tests later confirmed with 99.9 percent accuracy that it the dead man, indeed, was bin Laden. One of the DNA samples came from a bin Laden sister who passed away from cancer in Boston several years ago. At the time of her death, the CIA removed part of her brain, ABC News reported.
Photos of his corpse also were transmitted to Washington as proof of his death. After getting positive confirmation, the president exclaimed, “We got him!”
Before the US team left, it removed an intelligence treasure trove of documents and computer drives that could provide invaluable information on al Qaeda’s membership, missions and strategy. Then the SEALs—taking bin Laden’s corpse—crowded into the remaining functioning helicopter and one of the two backups on hand for the short flight to an American base in Afghanistan.
Before liftoff, the SEALs destroyed the downed helicopter with explosives.
The compound survivors were later gathered up and handed over to Pakistani authorities.
In all, four people besides bin Laden were killed: two brothers, one of whom was bin Laden’s personal courier; bin Laden’s son, Khalid, and the female human shield. Two other women were wounded. There were no American casualties. The whole mission may have lasted 40 minutes. But the planning had gotten under way much earlier.
The big break in finding bin Laden occurred about four years ago, when intelligence officials uncovered the identity of bin Laden’s personal courier from a Guantanamo detainee and eventually traced bin Laden to his home.
After months of surveillance, Obama gave the final authority to nail bin Laden at 8:20 a.m. Friday during a meeting with Brennan, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, White House Chief of Staff William Daley and deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, officials said.
He had considered bombing the hideout—but quickly ditched the idea because he wanted a body, proof of death, sources said.
The mission was supposed to go down early Saturday morning (EDT) but had to be scrubbed because of poor weather.
The next day, Sunday, around 1 p.m., the National Security team started to gather in the Situation room, and Obama arrived about an hour later. By 3:50 p.m. in Washington, Obama was given the first tentative confirmation of bin Laden’s death.
Then, at 7 p.m., he was told it was a “high probability,” and by the time the coded message came in of “Geromino’s” death, he knew the mission was accomplished.

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