Closing in on bin Laden

The long-hunted al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces during a 40-minute raid on his compound in Pakistan on May 2. See how the events unfolded:

Map of Abbottabad Compound

Bin Laden was thought to be in Pakistan, but instead of hiding in the remote tribal areas where Predator strikes have been targeting lower-level militants, he sought refuge in Abbottabad, a well-populated military and tourist town just north of Islamabad.

Map of Abbottabad Compound

The compound where he was found was located in a neighborhood populated by military families one mile from the elite Pakistan Military Academy.

Illustration of Abbottabad Compound

The one-acre complex was built in 2005 with a three-story residence eight times the size of the surrounding houses. It had no Internet or telephone connection, and residents burned their trash in an outdoor area of the compound instead of placing it outside to be picked up. The bin Laden family lived on the upper floors of the main house, and two other families lived in the compound: one on the first floor of the main building, and one in a second residence. Close to 20 women and children were there during the raid.

Illustration of Abbottabad Compound: Walls

A team of Navy SEALs departed Afghanistan in two Black Hawk helicopters and arrived at the compound about 1 a.m. Pakistan time. One helicopter dropped SEALs on an area outside the compound, where they scaled the walls to get inside. Another crashed into one of the compound's south outer walls, but none of those aboard was hurt. The SEALs later destroyed the downed helicopter. A third helicopter, a Chinook, arrived to provide additional support.

Illustration of Abbottabad Compound: House

As the commandos entered the compound, they came under fire from a man in a small residence near the main house. They shot and killed him, and his wife was killed in the crossfire. As they entered the first floor of the main house, they shot and killed another man. He was not armed, but an AK47 was on the floor of the room. On their way up to the second floor, they shot and killed bin Laden's son Khalid.

Illustration of Abbottabad Compound: House

SEALs then made their way to the third floor of the house and entered the room bin Laden was in. U.S. officials, revising initial statements that bin Laden had engaged in a firefight, said Tuesday that the al-Qaeda leader was unarmed when he resisted the attack. There was an AK47 and a pistol in the room. Officials said that bin Laden's wife "rushed the assaulter" and was shot in the leg, backing away from earlier suggestions that bin Laden had used women as human shields. Bin Laden died from shots to the head and chest shortly before 2 a.m.

Route of Osama's body

The body's journey

After he was killed at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden's body was flown by helicopter to Afghanistan for identification, then airlifted to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in an undisclosed location on the Arabian Sea.

The team

The team that killed Osama bin Laden is from the U.S. Navy's Special Warfare Development Group (NSWDG), a tier one counterterrorism and Special Mission Unit, or "black unit," that is headquartered in Virginia Beach. The team is a component of the Joint Special Operations Command.

Burial at sea

Bin Laden's preparation for burial included some traditional Muslim practices, according to an unnamed senior Defense Department official. Muslim scholars disagree about whether the burial was, in fact, done according to Islam's mandates. What we know about the 50-minute rites:

body preparation

1. Washing
Bin Laden's body was washed while on the aircraft carrier. Islam dictates that male relatives or a surviving spouse wash the body with soap and water in very specific ways, three, five or seven times. The official did not give details as to who washed the body or how it was done.

body preparation

2. Covering
The body was wrapped in a white sheet. Islam requires three clean, preferably white sheets, tied around the body with rope. The body is to be placed in a specific position with the hands on the chest.

3. Prayer
An officer read "religious remarks" which were translated into Arabic. A Muslim service is very specific, with certain prayer recitations, and is carefully choreographed down to where various people stand in relation to the imam and the positioning of mourner's hands.

4. Burial
Bin Laden's body was placed in a weighted bag, laid on a flat board and tipped so that it slid into the sea. Muslims are traditionally buried in a deep hole without a coffin, on their right sides, facing Mecca. Burial for someone who dies at sea requires weighting the body before putting it into the water.

5. Timing
Bin Laden's body went into the sea Monday at 2 a.m. EST (11 a.m. in Pakistan), about 10 hours after his death. Islam requires that a body be buried within 24 hours, ideally before the sun begins to set.

Osama bin Laden

Identifying the body

A senior U.S. intelligence official said these methods were used:

U.S. Special Operations forces recognized bin Laden, and one of his wives confirmed his identity.

Special Forces compared the body to photos. The official also cited "facial recognition" but did not say what that entailed.

Tests confirmed with "99.9 percent certainty" that the body was bin Laden's by matching samples to those of family members, according to White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan.

SOURCES: Defense Department, Associated Press,, CIA, Muslim Council of Britain, 2005 satellite image: Digital Globe via Google Earth Pro. GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Mary Kate Cannistra, Kat Downs, Laris Karklis, Todd Lindeman, Alicia Parlapiano, Cristina Rivero, Julie Tate and Gene Thorp - The Washington Post. Updated May 5, 2011.