US special forces set out to kill Osama bin Laden and dump his body in the sea to make it harder for the al Qaeda founder to become a martyr, US national security officials said on Monday.
“This was a kill operation,” one of the officials said.
“If he had waved a white flag of surrender, he would have been taken alive,” the official added. But the operating assumption among the US raiders was that bin Laden would put up a fight — which he did.
Bin Laden “participated” in a firefight between the US commandos and residents of the fortified mansion near Islamabad where he had been hiding, the official said.
The official would not explicitly say whether bin Laden fired on the Americans, but confirmed that during the course of the 40-minute operation the US team shot bin Laden in the head.
A senior Obama administration official said the commandos knew that bin Laden probably would be killed rather than captured.
“US forces are never in a position to kill if there is a way to accept surrender consistent with the ROE (rules of engagement). That said, I think there was broad recognition that it was likely to end in a kill.”
Within hours of bin Laden’s death, the commandos had buried his body at sea, two officials said. It was done so that bin Laden’s body would not become a symbol of veneration or inspiration for would-be militants, US officials said.
“You wouldn’t want to leave him so that his body could become a shrine,” one of the officials said.