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Flashback: Navy SEAL who shot Bin Laden said he ‘died scared shitless, hiding behind his wife’

Robert J. O'Neill speaking at the 2018 CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Released)
May 01, 2021

Nearly two years ago on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill shared his memory of killing one of the attack’s masterminds — Osama bin Laden.

In a Sept. 11, 2019 tweet, O’Neill, who is personally credited for taking the shot that killed bin Laden, described the final moments of the terror leader’s life during the SEAL Team 6 raid on Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on May 2, 2011 local time, and May 1 in the U.S. Then-President Barack Obama announced the terrorist leader’s death in a televised address to the nation on the night of May 1, 2011.

“Osama bin Laden died scared shitless. Hiding behind his wife,” O’Neill said.

Bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist group and the mastermind behind the attacks, was killed in an early morning raid that day.

Under bin Laden’s leadership of al Qaeda, he declared war on the U.S. in August 1996, citing U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia.

Though bin Laden and al Qaeda had declared war and had sent prior attacks targeting U.S. embassies, the threat posed by bin Laden and his terrorist organization was only fully realized after the 9/11 attacks, in which hijackers boarded and took over four U.S. passenger airliners and crashed them into targets including the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

Following the attacks, the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan, seeking to topple the Taliban’s political control of the country and ferret out the members of al Qaeda living within the country.

On May 2, 2011, O’Neill and other members of SEAL Team 6 flew over bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in Pakistan, neighboring Afghanistan. The SEALs raided the compound and killed the terrorist leader in a mission called Operation Neptune Spear.

O’Neill has been vocal about the mission since the events of Operation Neptune Spear quickly began to come out to the public.

In a 2018 Fox News interview, O’Neill said he was watching the news of his team’s own mission break while they stood over his body and law enforcement officials conducted the DNA testing to verify bin Laden’s remains.

“It was such an awesome night,” he continued. “It was such an honor […] to be a part of that incredible team.”

O’Neill also credited the work of Air Crews and supporting Army Rangers who assisted in the overall mission to take down bin Laden.

He said he was surprised by the turns of events that put him into position to take the shot.

“It was never going to be me, I was never going to be a part of that mission. He was just a ghost,” O’Neill said. “Just to get to that spot, delivered by the pilots […] and to get into that position in the last room because of teammates in front of me.”

In February of this year, O’Neill signed a deal for the film rights to his personal side of the story, based on his 2017 book “The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama Bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior.”

Rather than the story of SEAL Team 6 and the raid as a whole, which is portrayed in the 2012 film “Zero Dark Thirty,” the new film will apparently follow O’Neill’s Montana upbringing, joining the SEALs, and his personal moments leading up to the bin Laden raid.