'I killed him': US Navy Seal who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden breaks his silence - Americas - World - The Independent

'I killed him': US Navy Seal who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden breaks his silence

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

His actions were praised by Barack Obama, and considered by many to be the key foreign policy achievement of the US President’s first term. Yet the former US Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden has revealed that, after leaving the military, he has been left without a pension or health insurance and is struggling financially.

The special forces operative, named only as “the shooter”, has provided some of the most detailed testimony about the raid on Bin Laden’s compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May 2011, as well as outlining the difficulties of his return to civilian life after the mission.

Having joined the US Navy in the 1990s at the age of 19, the shooter said he had taken part in hundreds of combat missions with its Sea, Air, Land (Seal) teams and killed more than 30 enemy fighters. When Seal Team Six was chosen for the Bin Laden mission, he requested to be part of the assault group that would enter the house.

As the team worked its way through the building, many of its members peeled off to search the rooms. Only the shooter was left behind the “point man” by the time they reached the top floor where Bin Laden was hiding. “I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway,” he told Esquire magazine. “There was bin Laden standing there … He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short [Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle] he’s famous for.”

The shooter then describes Bin Laden moving towards the weapon. “He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat ... In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled on to the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! Same place ... He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: is this the best thing I’ve ever done, or the worst thing I’ve ever done?”

Before the Abbottabad raid, the female CIA analyst responsible for identifying the al-Qa’ida leader’s hideout asked the shooter why he seemed so calm. “I told her, ‘we do this every night. We go to a house, we f*** with some people, and we leave’.” He later gave the woman the magazine from the rifle he used to shoot Bin Laden, as a souvenir.

The shooter left the Navy in September 2012 after 16 years in the special forces, and says he now suffers from numerous medical complaints as a result of his exploits. He says he chose to retire because he feared he would not live to see his children grow up “and I realised that when I stopped getting an adrenaline rush from gunfights, it was time to go”.

Had he fulfilled the official retirement of 20 years’ service, he would qualify for a pension. But because he left early, he lost all of his $60,000 annual salary, as well as health insurance for himself and his family. He now pays almost $500 a month for private insurance, and more for the costs that remain uncovered.

The Urban Institute, a US think tank, estimates that about one in 10 military veterans have no basic health insurance, and their elite status does not afford the Seals any special treatment when they retire.

The members of Seal Team Six are also hampered by its policy of confidentiality, which leaves them unable to capitalise on their achievements when finding jobs in civilian life.

The shooter’s uncle reportedly tried to get him work as a consultant with Electronic Arts, the games developer behind the Medal of Honor series, but was not able to identify him as Bin Laden’s killer becaue of the codes of conduct and secrecy the special forces are expected to follow.

“He’s taken monumental risks,” the shooter’s father told Esquire. “But he’s unable to reap any reward.”

One of the men on the Bin Laden mission has benefited financially from that distinction, but at the cost of his anonymity. Matt Bissonnette wrote a best-selling account of the raid, No Easy Day. Yet despite writing under a pseudonym, he was named on a jihadi website soon after publication.

Fearful of retaliation for his part in the raid, the shooter has taught his children to hide in the bath if their house comes under attack, and trained his wife to fire a shotgun. The family has a “bolt” bag filled with necessities should they be forced into hiding at short notice.

Their marriage became so strained by the shooter’s work that he and his wife are, in fact, separated – though they still live under the same roof to save money.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week