WASHINGTON — The Americans who raided Osama bin Laden’s lair met far less resistance than the Obama administration described in the aftermath. The commandos encountered gunshots from only one man, whom they quickly killed, before sweeping the house and shooting others, who were unarmed, a senior defense official said in the latest account.
In Thursday’s revised telling, the Navy SEALs mounted a precision, floor-by-floor operation to find the al-Qaida leader and his protectors — but without the prolonged and intense firefight that officials had described for several days.
As the raiders moved into the compound from helicopters, they were fired on by bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who was in the guesthouse, the official said. The SEALs returned fire, and the courier was killed, along with a woman with him. The senior defense official, who spoke to The Associated Press anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said she was hit in the crossfire.
The Americans were never fired on again as they encountered and killed a man on the first floor of the main building and then bin Laden’s son on a staircase, before arriving at bin Laden’s room, the official said, revising an earlier account that the son was in the room with his father. Officials have said bin Laden was killed, shot in the chest and then the head, after he appeared to be lunging for a weapon.
Also on Thursday it was revealed that as of February 2010, al-Qaida was considering tampering with an unspecified U.S. rail track so that a train would fall off at a valley or a bridge on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The information was gleaned from Osama bin Laden’s compound, but counterterrorism officials say they believe the planning never got beyond the initial phase and have no recent intelligence pointing to an active plot for such an attack.