Navy Seals were ordered to kill terrorist unless he was naked
American commandos were told to assume Osama bin Laden was wearing a suicide vest and must be killed, unless he was naked when they found him, it has been disclosed.
The assault team sent into his compound would have accepted surrender only if they could be sure he had nothing hidden under his clothing, meaning his fate was sealed as soon as he was found in his bedclothes.
The admission by John Brennan, the chief US counter-terrorism adviser, will add to the growing belief that the planners of Operation Geronimo had no real intention of taking the al-Qa'ida leader alive.
Military analysts have said the tactics of the helicopter-borne attack on Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, bore the hallmarks of a "kill raid" as the noise of the approaching choppers virtually guaranteed a firefight that would justify shooting any targets.
Mr Brennan had previously said the US Navy Seal team that carried out the raid was "able and prepared" to take Bin Laden alive "if we had the opportunity" but he has now admitted that there were virtually no circumstances in which that would have been possible.
Other US officials later said that Bin Laden would have had to have been naked for the Seals to allow him to surrender.
Instead, he was shot twice in the head in a so-called "double tap", which is typically used to kill suicide bombers as it ensures instant death, with no risk of them being able to detonate their device.
Earlier this week Mr Brennan had claimed that Bin Laden was armed when he was shot, with other sources suggesting he had been shooting at the Seals.
The next day Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Bin Laden was unarmed but "resisting".
Mr Brennan's latest statements called into question whether Bin Laden had been "resisting" at all, or whether it was simply the fact that he was clothed that was enough to determine his fate.
Leon Panetta, the CIA director, said he did not believe Bin Laden had a chance to speak before he was shot dead.
"To be frank, I don't think he had a lot of time to say anything," he said.
Mr Panetta stressed that President Barack Obama had given the Seals permission to kill Bin Laden.
"The authority here was to kill Bin Laden," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)