The Navy Seal team that killed Osama bin Laden was never instructed to capture the al-Qa'ida leader, one of the special-operations officers involved in the mission has claimed, in the most comprehensive account yet published of the extraordinary assassination.
The unnamed officer quoted in a piece published in The New Yorker yesterday contradicts the Obama administration's continued insistence that Bin Laden would have been arrested if he had surrendered at once.
"There was never any question of detaining or capturing him – it wasn't a split-second decision," the officer is quoted as saying. "No one wanted detainees." The version of the plan recounted in the article makes no allowance for the possibility that Bin Laden would be taken alive.
The astonishing drama of the Abbottabad raid is further illuminated by details of the moments before Bin Laden – who, it is revealed, was referred to in the planning of the operation as "Crankshaft" – was finally killed, almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.
Fearing Bin Laden's two wives were wearing suicide jackets, the first Seal to find them shot one and then wrapped the two in a bear hug to protect his fellow soldiers from any blast. Meanwhile, a Pakistani-American translator patrolled outside, telling shocked locals: "Go back to your houses. There is a security operation under way."
Days after the operation was concluded, the piece says, President Obama travelled to a Kentucky military base to congratulate the unit that conducted the operation. But he also reserved attention for the dog that was part of the unit, Cairo.
"I want to meet that dog," Obama said, when he learnt that it was in an adjacent room, muzzled. The squadron commander replied: "If you want to meet that dog, Mr President, I advise you to bring treats."