U.S. forces flew to bin Laden’s hideout in helicopters about 1 a.m. Monday (4 p.m. Sunday in Washington) from neighboring Afghanistan. Bin Laden was killed after he and his guards resisted the U.S. attackers, a senior Obama administration official said. U.S. personnel identified him by facial recognition. Bin Laden was shot in the head, the Associated Press reported.
Brennan said the U.S. team was prepared for the “remote” contingency of capturing bin laden alive, as well as what officials viewed as the greater likelihood of a gun battle. “If we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that,” he said.
He said U.S. officials are talking to the Pakistanis to “pursue all leads to find out what sort of support system” and “benefectors” bin Laden had in Pakistan, given that he was living in a house that “had the appearance of a fortress” and that clearly stood out from the surrounding neighborhood.
“It does raise questions” about why Pakistani authorities did not investigate it, he said.
Brennan also said the raiders seized unspecified materials from bin Laden’s compound that will be analyzed for their intelligence value. He declined to elaborate on the materials.
The death of bin Laden is a “defining moment” in the war against terrorism and represents “decapitating the head of the snake that is al-Qaeda,” Brennan said.
He said al-Qaeda now faces a problem because bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, “is not charismatic” and has “a lot of detractors in the organization.” He predicted that “you’re going to see them eating themselves more and more.”
Earlier, a U.S. official said the SEAL team quickly flew bin Laden’s body by helicopter back to Afghanistan, where it was positively identified. Then, the official said, the body was taken out of Afghanistan and “buried at sea,” in part because the U.S. government did not want an accessible gravesite that could become a shrine for bin Laden’s followers. The body of water where the burial at sea took place was later identified as the northern Arabian Sea.
A senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon that bin Laden’s body was buried at sea from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after traditional Islamic rites including the washing of the corpse.
According to the official, bin Laden “was killed by U.S. bullets” in a firefight at the compound that lasted nearly 40 minutes.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said bin Laden was first “visually identified” at the compound by U.S. Special Operations Forces as well as one of his wives, who survived the raid and later identified him by name. The Special Operations Forces also compared the corpse to photographs of bin Laden “with 95 percent certainty that the body was Osama bin Laden,” the senior intelligence official said.