Death of Osama bin Laden: how the raid unfolded


On May 2, 2011, Barack Obama made a televised statement from the White House in which he announced that Osama bin Laden had been located and killed by US Navy Seals.

“Tonight, I can report to the American people and the world that the United States conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, and a terrorist responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent people. men, women and children,” the then president said.

The death of the world’s most wanted terrorist in an isolated compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad “sent an unequivocal message that the United States will exact revenge on those who attack it, no matter how long or how far we have to go”. according to CNN.

the CIA The website says bin Laden had been a “focal point” for intelligence services since the 1990s, but became nearly impossible to track after going into hiding following the September 11 attacks, which he allegedly orchestrated.

The breakthrough came when US intelligence linked a “kunya”, an operational pseudonym, associated with bin Laden to a compound 35 miles north of Islamabad.

The CIA reports that upon further investigation, the complex was found to have “unusual security features for the area”, including “high walls topped with barbed wire, double-entry doors, opaque windows, no apparent internet or telephone connection, and all garbage was burned rather than picked up”.

A subsequent surveillance operation led Washington to conclude that bin Laden, who topped America’s most wanted list, was hiding in the house, sparking preparations for a midnight raid on the compound. . Here is an overview of the course of this fateful evening:

April 29

8:20 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)

President Obama gives the green light to Operation Neptune Spear, the code name for the raid on the Abbottabad compound. The operation, which had been carefully planned over the previous months, is due to take place the following evening.

3:00 p.m. EDT

National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, who was present when the president approved the raid, calls a meeting of his team to finalize plans, NPR reports.

Obama is informed later that evening that poor weather conditions in northern Pakistan mean the operation will be delayed for a day.

May 1

1:25 p.m. EDT (10:25 p.m. Pakistan Time PKT)

Obama, along with other senior officials, officially approves the launch of Operation Neptune Spear.

22:51 PKT

Two Black Hawk stealth helicopters take off from Jalalabad in neighboring Afghanistan, carrying a group of 25 Navy Seals. The helicopters, named Chalk 1 and Chalk 2, ‘flew under cover of darkness and at a stealth altitude to avoid Pakistan’s radar systems’, reports the stories mapping site Arcgis.

May 2

00:30 PKT

Both helicopters descend on the Abbottabad compound. One clips its tail rotor onto the walls of the enclosure, causing it to crash. Although the helicopter is badly damaged, no one on board is injured and the raid continues as planned.

Shortly after, the Seals enter the compound.

00:39 PKT

A man suspected of being bin Laden is on the third floor of the house. Reports differ as to the exact circumstances of his death, but later photographs show he was shot several times, including a fatal bullet above his left eye. reports that during the operation, “three other men (including one of bin Laden’s sons) and a woman in the compound were also killed”.

00:53 PKT

President Obama, watching the raid unfold in the White House Situation Room, receives tentative confirmation that a man identified as bin Laden has been killed.

Two minutes later, the soldiers moved bin Laden’s body to the first floor of the house in the compound and placed it in a body bag for removal.

01:10 PKT

After a sweep of the compound for intelligence purposes, including a search of Bin Laden’s computer hard drive, the undamaged helicopter lifts off with Bin Laden’s body and some of the Seals on board.

The remaining agents blow up the crashed helicopter, to destroy confidential stealth technology on board. Five minutes later, a rescue helicopter picked up the other team members and left the area. The raid ends.

Although it was the culmination of years of calculated planning and training, the entire raid took just 40 minutes from start to finish.

02:53 PKT

The team lands in Afghanistan, officially ending Operation Neptune Spear.

4:01 a.m. PKT (7:01 p.m. EDT May 1)

Obama is informed that there is a “high probability” that the dead target is bin Laden. The president receives several more briefings over the next few hours.

11:35 p.m. EDT

Obama addresses the United States in a televised address from the White House.

“A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and ability,” he said. “No Americans were hurt. They were careful to avoid civilian casualties. After a shootout, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

12:59 a.m. EDT (9:59 a.m. PKT)

Bin Laden’s body is wrapped in a white sheet and placed in a weighted plastic bag before being dumped in the North Arabian Sea by members of the US armed forces.

This burial proved controversial. Although bin Laden’s body was disposed of within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Islamic custom, many Islamic scholars have protested that burials at sea are generally not permitted for Muslims.

However, the US government later clarified that it buried bin Laden at sea because no country would accept his remains for land burial. Those countries included his home country of Saudi Arabia, whose government approved burial at sea when contacted shortly before the body was disposed of, according to CBS News.

20:00 PKT

DNA evidence confirms that the corpse was bin Laden’s. However, that hasn’t stopped outlandish accusations emerging online that the operation didn’t actually happen.

For years after the operation, bin Laden’s murder would remain a matter of debate among international observers. From a diplomatic perspective, the extrajudicial execution of a foreign national on Pakistani soil has raised concerns that the United States has violated international law.


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