Sunday 22 April 2018

The moment Barack Obama watched Osama bin Laden die

Blood spattered interior of Bin Laden's compound
Bin Laden was discovered in a compound in Abbottabad, 35 miles north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, with few outward-facing windows and no internet or telephone access, and killed after an operation that lasted 40 minutes. Photo: Getty Images
Supporters of al-Qa'ida leader Osama bin Laden in Quetta shout anti-American slogans after the news of his death
Vice President Joe Biden, left, President Barack Obama, second left, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, second right, along with with members of the national security team, watch the mission against Osama bin Laden unfold in the Situation Room of the White House. Photo: AP
Still picture of inside the compound

Lauren Turner

US President Barack Obama was able to monitor the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden "in real time" from the White House.

Mr Obama watched events unfold sitting in the White House Situation Room, thousands of miles away from the al Qaida leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In one picture released by the White House, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits near the president, her hand covering her mouth. Mr Obama is leaning forward in his chair in the same photograph, watching intently as the raid takes place.

He is also seen in a close-up image with his mouth covered by his knuckles. Another picture shows the president pointing while talking to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

His counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan described the high levels of tension as the mission went on, the president fearing for the safety of those attempting to capture bin Laden.

"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time I think in the lives of the people who were assembled here," said Mr Brennan. "The minutes passed like days. The president was very concerned about the security of our personnel.

"That was what was on his mind throughout and we wanted to make sure we were able to get through this and accomplish the mission.

"But it was clearly very tense, a lot of people holding their breath, and there was a fair degree of silence as it progressed as we would get the updates.

"When we finally were informed that those individuals who were able to go in that compound and found an individual that they believed was bin Laden, there was a tremendous sigh of relief that what we believed and who we believed was in that compound was actually in that compound and was found.

"The president was relieved once we had our people and those remains (of bin Laden) off target."

He added that the mission was watched "in real time" by Mr Obama and senior US government officials, but he would not divulge details of the kind of footage they had access to.

What Mr Brennan would say was: "It gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis."

It has emerged that bin Laden used one of his wives as a human shield in a bid to protect himself and that she too was killed.

Mr Brennan said that action revealed "the nature of the individual he was".

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