Obama watches hit on bin Laden

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday, May 4, 2011

WASHINGTON: From halfway around the world, US president Barack Obama and his national security team monitored the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound in real time, watching and listening to the fire-fight that killed the al-Qaeda leader.
Gathered in the White House situation room, members of the group held their breath and barely spoke as they waited to see whether a carefully crafted, yet extremely risky, plan would succeed, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said.
Obama had been playing golf but returned to the White House for the suspenseful watch last Sunday.
Brennan said he would not reveal details “about what types of visuals we had or what type of feeds that were there but it gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis”.
However, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters, said Osama was shot above his left eye and the bullet blew away part of his skull.
The precision kill shot was delivered by a member of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team Six during a pre-dawn raid on Monday on Osama’s hideout in Pakistan.
Typically, members of the Navy SEAL team that conducted the operation wear helmet cameras that transmit sound and video to their operation centres and that data can be fed live to the White House and Pentagon. As the SEALs lowered themselves from helicopters into Osama’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the president and his advisers could only wait.
“It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters.
“The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel.”
There had not been unanimity among members of Obama’s team about going forward with the plan.
The president had plenty of evidence to suggest Osama would be found in the compound – as indeed he was – but there was no ironclad certainty he was there.
Then, there was the danger.
Anything could happen.
In the end, Osama was shot dead.
“When we finally were informed that those individuals who were able to go in that compound and found an
individual that they believed was Osama, there was a tremendous sigh of relief,” Brennan said.  – AP