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Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden breaks his silence

world Updated: Feb 12, 2013 18:20 IST

The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden broke his silence Monday, recounting the night he shot the Al-Qaeda leader three times and the financial anxiety he now faces as an unemployed civilian.

The commando kept his identity secret in the Esquire magazine interview, but revealed his role in the daring May 2011 raid for the first time, as well as the worries he has for his family's security.

"He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting," the SEAL said of bin Laden.

When the commandos came upon bin Laden in the dark on the third floor of his hideout in the town of Abbottabad in Pakistan, the Al-Qaeda mastermind had his hands on his youngest wife's shoulders, "pushing her ahead" and there was an AK-47 assault rifle nearby.

"I don't know if she's got a vest and she's being pushed to martyr them both. He's got a gun within reach. He's a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won't have a chance to clack himself off (blow himself up)," the commando said.

Two of the three books published on the killing of Osama bin Laden, are written by Navy SEALs who were a part of the squad that raided bin Laden's Abbottabad house in Pakistan and killed him.

"In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place.

"He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out."

The Esquire article, which referred to the unnamed commando as "the Shooter," focused on the Navy SEAL's plight as an anonymous hero without a pension, health insurance or extra security for his family, with the title: "The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... is Screwed."

The lengthy magazine profile came after another Navy SEAL who took part in the raid, Matt Bissonnette, published a book last year -- "No Easy Day" -- which drew the ire of Pentagon officials who allege he broke a pledge not to disclose classified information.

US soldiers and spies, whether retired or not, are required to submit manuscripts to the Pentagon for review to ensure no sensitive information is published. But the Esquire piece was not submitted to the department for vetting beforehand, a US defense official said.

The US Defense Department is now looking at the article to check if any classified material was divulged, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, watch the proceedings of assault against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House. Reuters photo

The Esquire article confirmed earlier accounts, including one in "No Easy Day," describing how once bin Laden was mortally wounded and collapsed on the floor, other SEALs shot him repeatedly in the chest and legs.

According to Esquire, the whole confrontation with bin Laden took only 15 seconds. But the most harrowing moment came earlier, when the shooter learned that one of the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters used in the raid had crash-landed at the compound.

"We're never getting out of here now," he said.

"I thought we'd have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up... That's when I got concerned."

After the raid, back at a base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the shooter brought over a female CIA officer -- now made famous by the Hollywood film "Zero Dark Thirty" -- to see bin Laden's corpse.

"We looked down and I asked, 'Is that your guy?' She was crying," he said.

"That's when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. 'I hope you have room in your backpack for this.' That was the last time I saw her."

US Navy SEALs practise Over The Beach evolutions during a training exercise. AFP photo

The CIA officer is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film as a relentless, dedicated agent, convinced after steadfastly monitoring the movements of a courier that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound.

Although he cited some details in the movie as unrealistic, the commando said the CIA character rings true.

He shared some lighter moments, too. On the helicopter ride to bin Laden's hideout, he badly needed to urinate and relieved himself in an empty water bottle.

"My biggest concern was having to piss really bad and then having to get off in a fight needing to pee," he said.

"I forgot until later that when I shot bin Laden in the face, I had a bottle of piss in my pocket."

After the operation was over, he reveled in the raid's success in which no SEALs were killed or wounded. But by the summer of 2012, after retiring from the military, he got nervous about potential revenge attacks on his family and how to make a living as a civilian.

And because he left the US Navy after 16 years of service, he does not qualify for a pension awarded only to those who remain in uniform for at least 20 years.

"He gave so much to his country, and now it seems he's left in the dust," his wife said.

A US Navy SEAL takes part in a demonstration of combat skills at the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce. Reuters photo

More on 'The Shooter'

The man who killed Osama bin screwed
For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives. Read more

'I killed him': US Navy Seal
His actions were praised by Barack Obama, and considered by many to be the key foreign policy achievement of the US President’s first term. Yet the former US Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden has revealed that, after leaving the military, he has been left without a pension or health insurance and is struggling financially. Read more

Navy SEAL who shot Osama bin Laden reviews Zero Dark Thirty
the Navy SEAL simply offers his expert take on director Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller—which chronicles the decade-long search for the al-Qaeda leader—in a fascinating new profile in Esquire. For the piece, writer Phil Bronstein takes the Navy SEAL, whom he refers to as the Shooter, to see the Oscar-nominated film for the first time. Among the observations that the SEAL makes... Read more