Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Obama recalls bin Laden raid nerves

President Barack Obama said the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound 'was the longest 40 minutes of my life' (AP)

US President Barack Obama ordered the commando raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after deciding the risks were outweighed by the possibility "of us finally getting our man" following a decade of frustration, he said in a broadcast interview.

The helicopter raid "was the longest 40 minutes of my life", Mr Obama told CBS's 60 Minutes news magazine, with the possible exception of when his daughter Malia became sick with meningitis as an infant.

Monitoring the commando raid operation in the White House Situation Room a week ago, Mr Obama said he and top aides "had a sense of when gunfire and explosions took place" halfway round the world, and knew when one of the helicopters carrying Navy Seals made an unplanned hard landing.

"But we could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound," he said.

In the interview, Mr Obama said that as nervous as he was about the raid, he did not lose sleep over the possibility that bin Laden might be killed. Anyone who questions whether the terrorist mastermind did not deserve his fate "needs to have their head examined", he said.

Mr Obama said bin Laden had "some sort of support network" inside Pakistan to be able to live for years at a high-security compound in Abbottabad, a city that houses numerous military facilities.

But he stopped short of accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the man who planned the September 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the US.

The administration has offered shifting accounts of the events that unfolded in the 40 minutes the Navy Seals were inside bin Laden's compound, most recently saying the terrorist mastermind was unarmed but appeared to be reaching for a weapon when he was shot in the head and chest.

Mr Obama's national security adviser Tom Donilon said: "I've not seen evidence that would tell us that the political, the military, or the intelligence leadership had foreknowledge of - of bin Laden" being in the country.

He said the US has asked the Pakistani authorities for access to people whom the Seals left behind in the compound, including three of bin Laden's wives. The US also wants access to additional materials collected there, he said.

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