UPDATE 12.04pm: OSAMA bin Laden was shot above his left eye and the bullet blew away part of his skull, officials say.
The precision kill shot was delivered by a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six during a pre-dawn raid on bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan.
Photos of bin Laden’s injuries were transmitted to Washington as proof that the mission was a success.
US President Barack Obama saw the terror chief shot after vision of the raid, captured on a video camera attached to a Navy SEAL’s helmet, was transmitted live to the White House Situation Room via satellite.
Bin Laden was killed during a on his Pakistani compound while using his wife as a human shield against the US Navy SEALS.
The US covert forces that raided the terrorist leader’s fortified secret lair in the Pakistani city of Abbotabad had offered him the chance to surrender but he refused.
During the 40-minute-long firefight one of Bin Laden’s wives was used to protect him from US bullets.
It isn’t clear as yet whether she was acting voluntarily or had been placed in front of her husband against her will.
But her death did not allow bin Laden to escape. The man who had always refused to be taken alive was blasted in in the head by US troops – an ignominious ending for the terrorist chief after one of history’s biggest manhunts.
He was buried at sea within hours of his death.
Five people were killed in the raid, including the al-Qa’ida leader’s son, two of his most trusted aides and his wife. Two of his other wives and four children, as well as other women and children living in the compound, were safely evacuated. No US troops were hurt – although the mission nearly went wrong in the first seconds after touchdown.
One of the two helicopters used to breach the mansion walls suffered a mechanical breakdown and couldn’t fly the soldiers out.
US forces burned the helicopter and had to carry Bin Laden’s body out on foot to the other chopper as Pakistani war jets scrambled to engage the unknown foreign invasion team.
In a White House briefing early this morning, US counterterrorism chief John Brennan said the details of the raid exploded the myth of bin Laden.
“Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million dollar-plus compound, living in an area (of the house) that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just speaks to just has false his narrative has been over the years,” he said.
The FBI’s Most Wanted Terror list declared bin Laden dead and withdrew the US$25 million reward that was on his head.
The FBI site, which calls him “Usama” Bin Laden, had a red “deceased” brand stamped under his headshot.
Mr Brennan, in a detailed White House briefing, said Pakistan was not informed of the raid. The nation is now fielding questions on how bin Laden was able to live “hidden in plain sight” in one their cities.
Mr Brennan said if the US operatives could have taken bin Laden alive, they would have, but the terrorist leader offered resistance.
“The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any capture operation,” said Mr Brennan. “Indeed, he did. There was a firefight, he therefore was killed in that firefight.”
“He was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. Whether or not he got off any rounds I quite frankly don’t know.
“Here is bin Laden, who has been calling for these attacks, living in this million dollar-plus compound, living in an area (of the house) that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.”
Mr Brennan said the US was in discussions with Pakistani officials about how bin Laden could have survived in the compound for five years. But when the US briefed them on the raid they seemed “surprised” that bin Laden was living under their noses, he said.
“People are referring to this as ‘hiding in plain sight’. Clearly this was something that was considered as a possibility,” he said.
“Pakistan’s a large country. We are working right now at (finding out) how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any kind of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there.
“We know that the people in the compound there were working on his behalf and that’s how we ultimately found our way to the compound.
“I think it’s inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time. I’m not going to speculate on what kind of support he might have had on an official basis, inside Pakistan.”
Mr Brennan said watching the raid was nerve-wracking. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” he said.
“The minutes passed like days. The President was very concerned about the security of our personnel.
“The President was relieved once we had our people and those remains off target.”
Asked if there was concern the Pakistanis would scramble their jets, and whether they had been informed of the raid, Mr Brennan said: “We didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people … were out of Pakistani airspace.
“At the time the Pakistanis were reacting, the instant they knew it was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore they were scrambling towards their assets. Clearly we were concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else, they had no idea who was on those (choppers), whether it be the US or somebody else.
“So we were watching making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. Thankfully there was no engagement with their forces.”
He said the Americans inside the compound, understood to be 24 Navy SEALS plus CIA operatives, were able to seize “material”.
“The individuals who carried out this assault planned for all the various contingencies. So when that helicopter was seen to be unable to move, obviously they had to go into plan B. They did it flawlessly, they were able to conduct the operation,” he said.
“But seeing the helicopter in a place and in a condition it wasn’t supposed to be, I think was for me, and other people in the room, was the concern we had that now we’re having to go to a contingency plan.
“Thankfully they were able to carry out the contingency plan as they were the initial plan.” The immobilised chopper was destroyed on site by Navy SEALS.
Mr Brennan did not comment of whether the Washington observers heard gunfire or saw people being shot, nor would he elaborate on the type of “visuals” that were being screened back to the Pentagon in real-time.
He would not reveal what was found but the information would help them continue to try to break the back of al-Qa’ida.
He confirmed the battle of Tora Bora, back in 2001, at the outset of the Afghanistan War, was the last time they had credible information as to there whereabouts of Bin Laden. Other leads came and went over the next 10 years.
Mr Brennan said when Mr Obama approved the raid “he made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in memory”.
Mr Brennan said it came after six months building intelligence about the compound and its residents.
“The President made the decision and the results speak for themselves,” he said.
Mr Brennan said it was a culmination of factors – height, facial recognition, DNA – which gave Mr Obama the confidence to declare it was bin Laden.
Asked whether they would release photos, Mr Brennan said that was still to be determined.
“We are going to do everything we can to ensure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden,” he said.
Mr Brennan said: “We’re hoping to bury the rest of al-Qa’ida along with Bin Laden.”