The man who claims he was the SEAL Team 6 operator who shot Osama bin Laden in 2011 has written a new book, and his retelling of that raid shows the reason photos of the terrorist leader’s body were never released.
The book, “The Operator” by Robert O’Neill, recounts the former Navy chief’s career spanning 400 missions, though his role with the elite SEAL team’s raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has become his most consequential.
According to O’Neill, he was walking behind his fellow SEALs as they searched bin Laden’s three-story compound. Upstairs, they could roughly make out bin Laden’s son Khalid, who had an AK-47.
“Khalid, come here,” the SEALs whispered to him. He poked his head out and was shot in the face.
An unnamed point man and O’Neill proceeded up to the third floor. After they burst into bin Laden’s bedroom, the point man tackled two women, thinking they might have suicide vests, as O’Neill fired at the Qaeda founder.
“In less than a second, I aimed above the woman’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger twice,” he wrote, according to the New York Daily News. “Bin Laden’s head split open, and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”
There is some dispute over who fired the fatal shots, but most accounts are that O’Neill shot bin Laden in the head at some point. According to a deeply reported article in The Intercept, O’Neill “canoed” the head of bin Laden, delivering a series of shots that split open his forehead into a V shape.
O’Neill’s book says the operators had to press bin Laden’s head back together to take identifying photos. But that wasn’t the end of the mutilation of bin Laden’s body, according to Jack Murphy of SOFREP, a special-operations news website.
Two sources told Murphy in 2016 that several SEALs took turns dumping round after round into bin Laden’s body, which ended up having more than 100 bullet holes in it.
Murphy, a former Army Ranger, called it “beyond excessive.”
“The picture itself would likely cause an international scandal, and investigations would be conducted which could uncover other operations, activities which many will do anything to keep buried,” he wrote.
After bin Laden’s body was taken back to Afghanistan for full identification, it was transported to the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) for burial at sea. Somewhere in the Arabian Sea on May 2, 2011, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, and bin Laden’s body was slid into the sea.
The Defense Department has said it couldn’t locate photos or video of the event, according to emails obtained in 2012 by The Associated Press.