Washington: Three years after Osama Bin Laden was killed in an midnight raid by a crack team of US Navy Seals commandos, a row has erupted over who fired the shot that led to the end of world's most wanted terrorist.
While the US Navy Seals operate as “quiet professionals” who never clamour for individual recognition, some of heroes of 'Operation Neptune Spear' think otherwise.
After 'No Easy Day', a 2012 book written by former Seal Matt Bissonnette, in which he claimed that the 'point man', a yet unnamed commando who was leading the column of Seals that reached the third floor of the Abbottabad house had first shot Osama, another former Seal has now come out in the open claiming that 'point man' had missed the target and it was he who shot the al Qaeda chief dead.
Robert O'Neill, who had retired in 2012, now says that it was he who had fired two rounds into the forehead of Osama. He made the revelation in an interview with Washington Post. O'Neill had recounted his version of the bin Laden raid in February 2013 to Esquire magazine, which identified him only as "the shooter". Importantly, he chose to reveal his identity to Washington Post just days before he was scheduled to reveal his identity in a television interview.
In the Esquire piece, O'Neill said he was one of two SEALs who went up to the third floor of the building where bin Laden was hiding. The first man fired two shots at bin Laden as he peeked out of the bedroom, but O'Neill says those shots missed. The man then tackled two women in the hallway outside of bin Laden's bedroom.
O'Neill went into the bedroom, he recounts. "There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman's shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal."
O'Neill added: "In that second, I shot him two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he's going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again. Bap! Same place. ... He was dead."
In the Post interview, O'Neill says he decided to reveal his identity as more and people were becoming aware of his role and that his name was bound to become public anyway.
However, many present and former Seals are unhappy that one of their own has taken credit publicly for killing Osama bin Laden. Others expressed disdain about some the Seals breaking the code of silence and seek to profit from their deeds.
The actions of both O'Neill and Bissonnette have drawn scorn from some of their colleagues. In an 31 October open letter, Rear Admiral Brian Losey, who commands the Naval Special Warfare Group, and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci, the top noncommissioned officer of the group, urged SEALs to lower their public profile. Their comments were widely perceived as being aimed at O'Neill and Bissonnette.
"At Naval Special Warfare's core is the SEAL ethos," the letter says. "A critical tenant of our ethos is 'I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.'"
The letter added, "We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain."
Bissonnette is under federal criminal investigation over whether he disclosed classified information in the book, which he did not vet with the military.
With agency inputs