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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor