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Operation lasted 40 minutes

OSAMA bin Laden was identified at the scene by his wife, who survived the raid and was taken into custody by reinforcements sent in after the Seals, together with the other survivors, according to US reports.

Just 20 minutes after the team had entered the compound, the commander on the ground told Washington that Bin Laden had been located.

Mr Obama's reaction was typically concise: "We got him."

Television footage taken after the raid showed a blood-covered carpet in a bedroom, with broken computers in another room.

Just 40 minutes after the Seals had touched down, they were airborne again, having stripped the compound of every scrap of intelligence material they could find, as well as Bin Laden's body.

Within three hours of the Seal team arriving back at their base, Bin Laden's body was aboard the USS Carl Vinson, in the Arabian Sea,.

Photographs of the corpse, showing a gaping bullet wound above the left eye, were immediately wired back to Washington.

Then, in a pre-arranged plan to avoid his burial place becoming a shrine, Bin Laden was buried at sea.

The operation had been so secretive that no foreign governments were informed in advance, and only a small circle inside the US government was aware of it.

The news was broken on Twitter by Keith Urbahn, the former chief of staff to George Bush's defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Irish Independent