Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot and killed by US special forces, the White House has disclosed.
White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the US Navy Seal commandos had been prepared to take the al Qaida leader alive, but said he had been "resisting" when he was shot dead. The disclosure risked inflaming anger among al Qaida sympathisers, amid warnings that bin Laden's supporters are likely to attempt revenge attacks against America and its allies.
Mr Carney also disclosed that a woman killed in the raid had not been acting as a human shield, as previously claimed, but was caught in crossfire. One of bin Laden's wives had, however, been shot and wounded when she tried to rush the American troops as they burst into the family's home, he said.
Mr Carney acknowledged there had been inaccuracies in the original accounts of the raid given by US officials, saying they had given "a great deal of information in great haste".
In an updated version, Mr Carney said there had been two other families in bin Laden's compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad - one living on the ground floor of the same building as the bin Laden family.
When the US troops entered the building, two al Qaida couriers were killed "along with a woman who was killed in crossfire". The commandos then moved up to the first and second floors where they found the bin Laden family.
"There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and indeed he did resist," Mr Carney said. "In the room with bin Laden a woman - bin Laden's wife - rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."
Mr Carney said the US team had faced consistent resistance "from the moment they landed to the end of the operation. We were prepared to capture him (bin Laden) if that was possible. We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance. There were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight - it was a highly volatile firefight.
"He resisted. The US personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism. He was killed in an operation because of the resistance that they met."
Mr Carney said that the administration is still considering whether to release photographs of bin Laden's body in order to counter claims already rife in the region that he had not been killed at all. "There are sensitivities about the appropriateness," he said. "It is fair to say it is a gruesome photograph. It is an issue we are taking into consideration."