Less than a day after Reuters released incredibly gruesome photos of dead bodies and the blood shed at the compound, one senior defense official is radically altering the narrative of the mission at Osama bin Laden's compound. In a drastic departure from the story of a chaotic, prolonged firefight, the anonymous official told the AP that only one of the five people killed in the raid was armed and fired a shot.
Now that SEAL Team Six has been debriefed, the official said that as troops moved into the compound, they were fired on by bin Laden's courier. He was in the guesthouse and killed within the first few minutes of the operation, along with a woman who was shot dead in the crossfire. U.S. forces were never fired on again during the 40-minute assault as the precision, floor-by-floor search for bin Laden continued. Before arriving at bin Laden's room, a man was killed on the first floor and then bin Laden's son was fatally shot on a staircase.
Although there was some speculation that bin Laden was unarmed because he expected that his network of sources would give him ample warning of a possible attack, the debrief also revealed that the SEALs found a false door and a small arsenal of weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, in bin Laden's bedroom. Before it was exposed that bin Laden was unarmed, officials said it appeared that he was lunging for a weapon.
The new version of events has not altered the U.S. position on the attack. Speaking to ABC News, a U.S. official said:
"These guys are American heroes. They were told to kill bin Laden. We've had the authority to kill bin Laden since 9/11. And that's exactly what they did."
Since Sunday, the narrative of the covert U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden has seemed to shift almost hourly in the fog of war. At first, the White House said SEAL Team Six were instructed to capture bin Laden, but that he was both armed and possibly used his wife for a shield. All of which left Americans free to cheer bin Laden's death without equivocation — and all of which has since been retracted. Considering the number of anonymous statements and the fact that even official White House press conferences have offered divergent takes, it's highly doubtful this is the last revision you'll hear.
Source: Only 1 killed in bin Laden raid was armed [AP]
Osama Bin Laden Raiders Encountered False Door, Found Small Arsenal in Compound [ABC News]
Osama bin Laden compound in Abbottabad - in pictures [Guardian UK]