London: Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US Navy Seals in a commando strike earlier this week in Pakistan, might only have been spared his life by marines if he was found naked, a media report said.
The elite commando team that killed him was told to assume he was wearing a suicide vest if he was clothed, according to a briefing given to a congressional aide, the Daily Mail reported.
The aide - briefed on the rules of engagement - told the Los Angeles Times that Osama "would have had to be naked for them to allow him to surrender".
It has been reported that the terror mastermind was surprised by the attack while wearing his nightclothes.
The admission raises the question of whether the operation targeting bin Laden, in which he was shot in the head by a US commando at a hideout in Pakistan, would have done anything other than kill him.
Chief counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan had initially claimed that commandos were under orders to capture the terror head alive: "If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn`t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that."
On Tuesday CIA director Leon Panetta said bin Laden "made some threatening moves".
Some US national security officials have, however, privately disclosed there was never any intention to capture bin Laden alive.
Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking to head off suggestions that killing Osama was illegal, said the US commandos who raided the hide-out had carried out a justifiable act of national self-defence.
Holder said bin Laden was a legitimate military target and had made no attempt to surrender to the US forces, who stormed his fortified compound near Islamabad and shot him in the head.
"It was justified as an act of national self-defence," Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing Osama`s admission of being involved in the Sep 11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.
It was lawful to target Osama bin Laden because he was the enemy commander in the field and the operation was conducted in a way that was consistent with US laws and values, he said, adding that it was a "kill or capture mission".
"If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate," Holder said.