Video: US admits Bin Laden unarmed when killed
Conflicting reports on raid amid calls for 'photo proof'
Published 04/05/2011 | 05:00
THE US last night claimed its special forces had tried to take Osama bin Laden alive -- but then admitted the al-Qa'ida leader was unarmed when he was shot dead in the dramatic raid.
Conflicting reports from the US deepened the mystery surrounding the shooting as the West went on high alert for revenge attacks.
White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the US Navy Seal commandos had been prepared to take Bin Laden alive, yet claimed he had been "resisting" when he was shot dead.
Claims that the al-Qa'ida leader had died while firing an automatic weapon at commandos were withdrawn, as US President Barack Obama's spokesman admitted "he was unarmed".
The new revelations were made after Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the White House to make public the "precise facts surrounding his killing" to ensure it adhered to international law.
By contradicting previous official statements, and admitting Bin Laden was unarmed, Mr Carney appeared to undermine the White House's claims that the commandos had been told to capture him alive if possible.
Mr Carney said: "In the room with Bin Laden a woman -- Bin Laden's wife -- rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."
A dramatic description of Bin Laden using his wife as a "human shield" and forcing her to sacrifice her life was also false. The woman is still alive and was taken into custody together with several of the terrorist's children.
The embarrassing climbdown left the US open to accusations of a cover-up, and sparked calls for video footage of the raid and images of Bin Laden's body to be released to kill off conspiracy theories.
But the White House suggested pictures of Bin Laden's body were too "gruesome" to be made public because they could be "inflammatory".
Mr Carney spoke of how the US team had faced consistent resistance "from the moment they landed to the end of the operation".
"We were prepared to capture him (Bin Laden) if that was possible. We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance," he said.
"There were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight -- it was a highly volatile firefight.
"He resisted. The US personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism. He was killed in an operation because of the resistance that they met."
As he spoke, fears of reprisals heightened as five men were arrested for allegedly taking pictures outside the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. They were being questioned by British anti-terrorism officers last night.
The men, all aged in their 20s and from London, were stopped close to the Cumbria plant on Monday afternoon, just hours after the death of the al-Qa'ida leader was announced.
And a major re-assessment of security planning for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and Mr Obama has been carried out by security chiefs in the wake of Bin Laden's death.
Senior garda officers were in close contact throughout the day with the US Secret Service and the British security services as a high terror alert was introduced globally.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban issued a statement in which they said the US "lacks strong evidence to prove its claim" that Bin Laden was dead.
Pakistan also made a series of extraordinary claims about the compound where Bin Laden was found, including a suggestion that their own soldiers had raided the same building in 2003.