Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was unarmed when U.S. Navy commandos shot him dead during a special operation in Pakistan though he did offer resistance, the White House said on Tuesday.
“He was not armed,” White House spokesperson Jay Carney told journalists here, but added that several other people in the building in Abbottabad had weapons and there was a “volatile firefight.”
At a press briefing, Mr. Carney read out a revised White House statement on the operation that took out the world's most wanted man. He said the revised narrative corrected errors in the earlier statements, including the claim that bin Laden used a woman as a “human shield.”
“There was concern bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and, indeed, he did resist,” Mr. Carney said. Bin Laden's wife, who was present at the mansion, was shot in the leg, but not killed. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”
The spokesperson also said the picture of bin Laden's body was “gruesome” and the administration was discussing whether it should be made public. “It is fair to say it is a gruesome photograph ... it could be inflammatory,” he said.
Osama was shot in the head. Mr. Carney also said the major development would not affect plans to begin troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July.
Mr. Carney's statement was an effort by the White House to clear the confusion over various statements and news reports coming on this issue in various media outlets.
Giving a recap of the events, Mr. Carney said that on the orders of the U.S. President, a small team assaulted a secure compound in an affluent suburb of Islamabad to capture or kill Osama.
The raid was conducted with U.S. military personnel assaulting on two helicopters, he said. The team methodically cleared the compound moving from room to room in an operation lasting nearly 40 minutes. “They were engaged in a firefight throughout the operation and Osama bin Laden was killed by the assaulting force,” Mr.Carney said.
He said in addition to the bin Laden family, two other families resided in the compound. “One team began the operation on the first floor of the bin Laden house and worked its way to the third floor; a second team cleared the separate building.”
He said that on the first floor, two al-Qaeda couriers were killed along with a woman who died in the cross-fire. Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floors.
“In the room with bin Laden, a woman — bin Laden's wife — rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” Mr. Carney said. Following the firefight, the non-combatants were moved to a safe location as the damaged helicopter was detonated. The team departed the scene via helicopter to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea, he said, adding that aboard the USS Carl Vinson, the last rites of bin Laden were conducted in conformity with Islamic precepts and practices.