Washington: The White House has said the US covert operation to kill al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was conducted in a manner fully consistent with the laws of war.
"The (Special Operations) team had the authority to kill Osama bin Laden unless he offered to surrender; in which case the team was required to accept his surrender if the team could do so safely," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.
"The operation was conducted in a manner fully consistent with the laws of war. The operation was planned so that the team was prepared and had the means to take bin Laden into custody," Carney said in response to a question.
"There is simply no question that this operation was lawful. Osama bin Laden was the head of al Qaeda, the organisation that conducted the attacks of September 11, 2001. And al Qaeda and bin Laden himself had continued to plot attacks against the US. We acted in the nation`s self-defence," he said.
"The operation was conducted in a way designed to minimise and avoid altogether, if possible, civilian casualties. And that was done at great risk to Americans. Furthermore, consistent with the laws of war, bin Laden`s surrender would have been accepted if feasible," Carney said.
“If Osama bin Laden had surrendered the US could have brought him into custody safely, then that would have been bringing him to justice as well. But he was brought to justice on Sunday. I think it`s entirely appropriate that, given the circumstances, that he was brought to justice in the way he was. The professionals on the ground put themselves at great risk and accomplished their mission," he said.
Notwithstanding the reaction from Pakistan that America`s covert operation to kill Osama was an "unauthorised unilateral action", the White House said the US would continue with this policy as this has been very successful.
"It`s a hypothetical, but certainly that method was very effective and was entirely lawful. I certainly wouldn`t want to preclude the use of that method by anything I might say from here," Carney said.
US President Barack Obama has consistently said he would go ahead to target high profile terrorists, if he had actionable intelligence and the Pakistani Government was not willing to act.
"We will continue to seek and find and bring to justice terrorists who are plotting to do harm to Americans and our allies," Carney said.
Are you saying that the US reserves the right to, as the President said back in the campaign, if Pakistan will not act against terror suspects, to go and enter Pakistani territory and act against them?, Carney was asked.
"Yes. He made very clear during the campaign that, that was his view. He was criticised for it. He maintained that, that was his view, and by the actions he has taken as President, feels that it was the right approach and continues to feel that way," Carney said.