Washington: The Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden broke his silence Monday, recounting in an interview the night he shot the Al-Qaeda leader three times and the financial anxiety he now faces as an unemployed civilian.
The commando kept his identity secret in the Esquire magazine profile but revealed his role in the daring May 2011 raid for the first time, as well as the worries he has for his family’s security.
“He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting,” the SEAL says of Bin Laden.
When the commandos came upon Bin Laden in the dark on the third floor of his Pakistani hideout, the Al-Qaeda mastermind had his hands on his youngest wife’s shoulders, “pushing her ahead” and there was a AK-47 nearby.
“I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off (blow himself up),” the commando says.
“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place,” he says.
“He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out.”
The Esquire article, which refers to the unnamed commando as “the Shooter,” focuses on the Navy SEAL’s plight as an anonymous hero without a pension, health insurance or extra security for his family, with the title: “The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden...is Screwed.”
The lengthy magazine profile comes after another Navy SEAL who took part in the raid, Matt Bissonnette, published a book last year, “No Easy Day,” which drew the ire of Pentagon officials who allege he broke a pledge not to disclose classified information.
The Esquire article confirms earlier accounts, including one in “No Easy Day,” describing how once Bin Laden was mortally wounded and collapsed on the floor, other SEALs shot him repeatedly in the chest and legs.
According to Esquire, the whole confrontation with Bin Laden took only 15 seconds. But the most harrowing moment came earlier, when the “shooter” learned that one of the stealthy Black Hawk helicopters in the raid had crash-landed at the compound.
“We’re never getting out of here now,” he says. “I thought we’d have to steal cars and drive to Islamabad. Because the other option was to stick around and wait for the Pakistani military to show up... That’s when I got concerned.”
After the raid, back at a base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, the “Shooter” brings over a female CIA officer—now made famous by the Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty—to see Bin Laden’s corpse.
“We looked down and I asked, ‘Is that your guy?´ She was crying.
“That’s when I took my magazine out of my gun and gave it to her as a souvenir. Twenty-seven bullets left in it. ‘I hope you have room in your backpack for this.´ That was the last time I saw her.”
The CIA officer is portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film as a relentless, dedicated agent, convinced Bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound.
Although he cites some details in the movie as unrealistic, the commando says the CIA character rings true.
“They made her a tough woman, which she is,” he says.
After the operation is over, he revels in the raid’s success in which no SEALs were killed or wounded. But by the summer of 2012, after retiring from the military, he is nervous about potential revenge attacks on his family and how he would make a living as a civilian.
He has taught his wife and children what to do if attackers enter their home, and his spouse is ready to use a shotgun against intruders.
And because he left the Navy after 16 years of service, he does not qualify for a pension awarded only to those who remain in uniform for at least 20 years.
“He gave so much to his country, and now it seems he’s left in the dust,” his wife says.
“I feel there’s no support, not just for my family but for other families in the community. I honestly have nobody I can go to or talk to. Nor do I feel my husband has gotten much for what he’s accomplished in his career,” she says.
A friend of the commando, another Navy SEAL, says he too is worried about his income once he retires and that ironically, his family would be better off financially if he had been killed in combat.
“I agree that civilian life is scary. And I’ve got a family to take care of. Most of us have nothing to offer the public. We can track down and kill the enemy really well, but that’s it,” he says.