Sunday 15 September 2019

Seal team at odds over who shot dead Osama bin Laden

Rob O'Neill, who was on the Navy SEAL 6 team that killed Osama bin Laden. The Washington Post published a story on Thursday quoting O'Neill, as claiming to have fired the fatal shot that hit bin Laden in the forehead after he stormed into a room in bin Laden's house in Abbottabad (REUTERS/Walter Hinick)
Rob O'Neill, who was on the Navy SEAL 6 team that killed Osama bin Laden. The Washington Post published a story on Thursday quoting O'Neill, as claiming to have fired the fatal shot that hit bin Laden in the forehead after he stormed into a room in bin Laden's house in Abbottabad (REUTERS/Walter Hinick)
President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room in the White House (REUTERS/Pete Souza)
Hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center and explodes at 9:03 a.m. on September 11, 2001 in New York City. The crash of two airliners hijacked by terrorists loyal to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent collapse of the twin towers killed some 2,800 people (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. assault on his Pakistani compound on May 2, 2011, then quickly buried at sea, in a dramatic end to the long manhunt for the al Qaeda leader who had become the most powerful symbol of global terrorism (REUTERS/Hamid Mir)

Philip Sherwell

The former US Navy Seal who claims to have shot dead Osama bin Laden has gone from "hero to zero" and "put a bullseye on his back" after coming forward to take the glory for the killing, a former member of the elite force claimed.

Robert O'Neill is facing a backlash from ex-comrades angered by his disputed version of events at the al-Qa'ida chief's Pakistan compound in March 2011 and his decision to go public.

There are now three different versions circulating of who delivered the fatal shot that killed American's public enemy number one during the raid, conducted by more than 20 commandos.

Jonathan Gilliam, a former Seal, condemned the actions and motives of Mr O'Neill, who draws on his special forces experience in his well-paid appearances as a motivational speaker.

"It's ridiculous for O'Neill to claim the credit for the fatal shot as we probably never will know and don't need to know," said Mr Gilliam, a security consultant, noting that his views reflected those of many Seals to whom he had spoken.

"He served with distinction, he had a great career and he was a great operator. But he went from hero to zero in the Seal community when he started using his career to cash in and draw crowds as a speaker. This reflects terribly on all of us and does not represent who we are."

Mr Gilliam also expressed fears that Mr O'Neill had made himself and his family targets for revenge attacks by Islamist extremists. "He's put a bullseye not just on his back but on those around him by identifying himself. I would not want to be anywhere around him, I'm afraid. If I heard he was coming to give a speech at my workplace, I'd call in sick."

Mr O'Neill's home address is not public and it is not known if he has taken extra security arrangements or will be provided with protection by state or federal agencies after choosing to identify himself.

Mr O'Neill has not, however, gone into hiding since disclosing his name. He gave a talk to a chamber of commerce in Tennessee on Thursday, during which he related combat stories but did not mention the bin Laden raid.

Mr Gilliam was similarly critical of Matt Bissonnette, another Seal on the raid who has taken credit for shooting bin Laden, as well as Joe Biden, the gaffe-prone vice-president who first revealed that it was Seal Team 6 unit that killed bin Laden, and Leon Panetta, the former CIA chief who allowed scriptwriters full access for research on 'Zero Dark Thirty', the film about the raid.

"This is a problem that goes to the top," he said. "Security is being compromised by the release of information that should not be public. Mr Bissonnette, published his account of the raid, 'No Easy Day', in 2012 under the pseudonym Mark Owen. The book did not identify the person who shot bin Laden.

But Mr Bissonnette appeared to take issue with Mr O'Neill's version of events in an interview with NBC News. "Two different people telling two different stories for two different reasons," Mr Bissonnette said. "Whatever he says, he says. I don't want to touch that."

In an anonymous 'Esquire' interview from 2013, Mr O'Neill makes no mention of Mr Bissonnette shooting bin Laden. But when speaking to the 'Washington Post', Mr O'Neill said that other shots were fired at bin Laden by at least two other Seal Team According to a "source close to another Seal team member", speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, the fatal shot was fired by one of two other men who entered the room before Mr O'Neill.

A representative of a speaker's organisation which says it represents O'Neill said he was unavailable to comment. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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