Osama bin Laden ‘died afraid,’ says U.S. Navy Seal who insists he fired the fatal shot in Pakistan
Osama bin Laden died afraid, the U.S. Navy Seal who claims to have killed him has been telling the families of September 11 victims.
Robert O’Neill continues to insist he fired the fatal shots during a special forces raid on the Al-Qaeda chief’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
His decision to speak out this week attracted scorn from serving and former Navy Seals, with a number suggesting that another member of the elite Seal Team Six was responsible for firing the final shots.
In his first response to the criticism, Mr. O’Neill said that he did not care whether people believed it was him.
He disclosed that he had been hinting at his role in the raid privately for some time, including telling relatives of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks what had happened on the night bin Laden died.
In an interview with CNN, Mr. O’Neill, 38, who has since left the Seals and now works as a motivational speaker, said he was able to give “closure” to family members by describing the Al-Qaeda chief’s last moments.
“When I’m out speaking, I never mention the bin Laden mission,” he said.
“But anytime anyone says, ’You know, my brother died at Cantor Fitzgerald [the bank which lost two thirds of its workforce on September 11], or my mom’ one thing I tell them is, ’All right, Osama bin Laden died like a p–-. That’s all I’m telling you. Just so you know, he died afraid. And he knew that we were there to kill him.’ And that’s a closure.”
He died afraid. And he knew that we were there to kill him
Mr.O’Neill had been serving as a Seal for 15 years when he was assigned to the mission to get bin Laden.
Although he had been on around 400 other missions, many highly dangerous, he and his comrades feared that the bin Laden raid would be their last and that all those taking part would be killed.
As they flew under cover of darkness, he said, the 23 members of Seal Team Six discussed the September 11 attacks.
“Well, you have to go pump yourself up to go die,” he said. “So we would talk about this… [It was a] group of guys who knew time on Earth was up, so you could be honest with each other. And we all accepted and nobody was afraid. It was really cool.”
Mr. O’Neill also addressed for the first time the criticism he has received in response to his decision to name himself as “The Shooter” in interviews with the Washington Post and Fox News. The nickname was bestowed on him by Esquire, to which he spoke anonymously last year.
In his latest interview, with Alex Quade, a freelance reporter who has been conducting a series of interviews with the former Seal over 18 months, Mr. O’Neill said: “The most important thing that I’ve learnt in the last two years is to me it doesn’t matter any more if I am ’The Shooter.’ The team got him.
“Even now… there are guys saying that I am full of s–t. You only know what you were told unless you were in the room. And unfortunately for me, there was two people in the room, and one of us is dead and that’s Osama bin Laden.”
Rear Admiral Brian Losey, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, has said that Seals should not speak publicly about their mission, or try to claim glory for the work of many people. In a letter made public, he wrote: “We do not abide wilful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain.”
Mr. O’Neill said he spoke only after senior figures in the Navy had already discussed the raid. “Once anyone says anything at that level, it’s not classified,” he said.