Obama: Bin Laden raid was 'the longest 40 minutes of my life'

The helicopter raid that ended in the killing of Osama bin Laden one week ago was "the longest 40 minutes of my life", President Barack Obama said last night, adding that he and top aides in the White House situation room had only patchy information on what was happening.

The only time more agonising, Mr Obama told the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, was when his daughter Malia fell ill with meningitis. In the White House they only "had a sense of when gunfire and explosions took place" at the Bin Laden lair and when one of the US helicopters failed and made a hard landing. "We could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound," he said.

In the recorded interview, Mr Obama said he had lost no sleep over the killing of the man responsible for 9/11 and said anyone harbouring qualms should "have their heads examined". He also cast a doubting eye towards Pakistan, suggesting that Bin Laden must have had "some kind of support network there".

He said: "We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government, outside of government, and that's something we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate."

Earlier yesterday, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said the administration had not yet found evidence that the Pakistani government, military or intelligence services "had foreknowledge of Bin Laden" being in their country. But he made clear that Pakistan should cooperate in investigating how the world's most wanted man found shelter in countryside not far from the capital, Islamabad.

"How could this have happened?" Mr Donilon asked, speaking hours after US intelligence officials made new claims that Bin Laden had been personally directing al-Qa'ida from inside the walls of the Abbottabad compound where he was killed a week ago. "We need to investigate it. We need to work with the Pakistanis. And we're pressing the Pakistanis on this investigation."

Every day since the Navy Seals struck in Abbottabad has brought new tensions between Pakistan and the US as both countries endeavour to press home their own – increasingly divergent – versions of the final years of Bin Laden and the circumstances of his death. Yesterday, Pakistani officials poured cold water on the American assertion that he was actively directing al-Qa'ida operations from his lair.

"It's bullshit," one official told Reuters news agency. Another Pakistani intelligence official said: "It sounds ridiculous. It doesn't sound like he was running a terror network."

Adding to the scepticism about the US claims was the knowledge that the Bin Laden retreat had neither telephone nor internet connection, and that its infamous resident had to rely on one or two loyal couriers to get information in and out. But the embarrassment for Pakistan may only have deepened after one of Bin Laden's widows told its intelligence services that, while her husband had been at the compound for five years, he, his family and his inner circle were previously hiding out in a small village not far from Islamabad for two-and-a-half years.

So by America's reckoning he was running his network from inside Pakistan for more than seven years. "This compound in Abbottabad was an active command-and-control centre for al-Qa'ida's top leader and it's clear that he was not just a strategic thinker for the group," a US intelligence official said after releasing videos late on Saturday showing the terror chief rehearsing for video-taped propaganda sermons and sitting in an old blanket watching himself on television. "He was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions," the official added.

The British Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, is due to travel to the US later this month to discuss the trove of intelligence gathered from Bin Laden's residence. Yesterday, he warned that the hard-drives and hand-written notes uncovered by the US Navy Seals showed the al-Qa'ida terror network was "still alive and well".

Pakistan will now be bracing itself for any new revelations, as analysts in the United States pore over the huge amount of intelligence seized in the residence.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea