Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was unarmed when Navy SEALs stormed his Pakistani compound, but he resisted before he was fatally shot, the White House said Tuesday.
The team of 25 “assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Osama bin Laden” Sunday night, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday in an effort to clarify misinformation about “Operation Neptune Spear.”
They found three families, including bin Laden’s, at two different buildings. Commandos cleared the building where one family lived, while another team entered the first floor of bin Laden’s three-story building, where another family lived.
On that floor, U.S. forces killed two al-Qaida couriers along with a woman who was “killed in cross-fire,” Carney said, backing away from earlier reports that bin Laden used the woman — likely the wife of one of the couriers — as a human shield.
The commandos found bin Laden and one of his wives on the third floor.
“There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation — and, indeed, he resisted,” Carney said without elaborating.
Bin Laden appeared to be “reaching for a weapon,” a senior U.S. official said, according to Fox News.
“Bin Laden’s wife rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg. … Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed,” Carney said. One of bin Laden’s sons also was killed.
CIA director Leon Panetta Tuesday said that bin Laden “didn’t have a lot of time to say anything” to the SEALs. “It was a firefight going up that compound. This was all split-second action.”
Panetta said that President Barack Obama had given “full authority to kill” bin Laden. At the end of the 40-minute mission, U.S. officials watching a live feed were told about bin Laden: “Geronimo EKIA” — Enemy Killed in Action.