This is the face of Irish-American Navy Seal who killed Osama bin Laden
The Navy Seal responsible for killing the world’s most wanted terrorist - Osama bin Laden - has been identified.
Rob O’Neill, who is believed to have Irish-American heritage, is a 38-year-old decorated serviceman who recently left the unit after 16 years.
Operation Geronimo was the US special forces unit’s most famous operation, carried out by a team whose names had until now remained top secret.
O'Neill was expected to give an interview later this month to Fox News. However, his father let slip the news in an interview.
Rob O'Neill shot the al-Qaeda chief three times in the forehead at close range in the secret raid on his house in Pakistan in 2011
He was one of 23 SEALS who flew into the city of Abbottabad the night of May 2, but the last to see bin Laden alive.
It had previously been unclear precisely how the terrorist leader was killed and how many servicemen had been involved in his death.
Mr O’Neill, who is married with children, was last year interviewed by Esquire magazine, which did not publish his name. He told how he joined the army at the age of 19 as a reaction to his then-girlfriend leaving him.
"That's the reason al-Qaeda has been decimated," he joked, "because she broke my f****** heart."
Talking of the famous mission, he said: "I'm not religious, but I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was."
Mr O’Neill, of Butte, Montana, served more than a dozen tours of duty in active combat, including Iraq and Afghanistan, undertaking 400 separate combat missions.
For his service he has been decorated 52 times, up to the level of senior chief petty officer before he left. He was awarded two Silver Stars - the military's third highest honor - as well as four Bronze Stars with Valor.
He was the lead jumper on the Maersk Alabama, the ship taken over by Somali pirates, whose rescue turned into the Oscar-winning movie Captain Phillips.
It has been reported that his decision to speak out was prompted by losing some of his military benefits by quitting the SEALs after 16 years rather than completing a full 20 years of service.
Mr O’Neill’s father defended the decision to go public, saying. “People are asking if we are worried that Isis will come and get us because Rob is going public. I say I’ll paint a big target on my front door and say come and get us."
This week the head of the US Naval special forces criticised Mr O’Neill’s decision to identify himself.
In a letter to serving members of the Navy’s Sea, Air, Land Teams, commonly known as SEALs, Rear Admiral Brian Losey, Commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), and Force Master Chief Michael Magaraci suggested they should consider themselves “quiet professionals” who do not seek glory for missions.
Mr O'Neill is now the second SEAL of the 23 involved in the raid to make his identity public.
Matt Bissonnette, who wrote a book two years ago called No Easy Day about the mission under the pen name Mark Owen, and who also appears on the Fox documentary The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden, said he had been threatened with prosecution for disclosing classified information.
In their letter, the SEAL leaders said that teammates who breached the “ethos” of keeping quiet about their missions were “selfish.”
“We do not abide wilful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety and financial gain, which only diminishes otherwise honourable service, courage and sacrifice,” they went on.
"Any real credit to be rendered is about the incredible focus, commitment, and teamwork of this diverse network and the years of hard work undertaken with little individual public credit. It is the nature of our profession."
Belfast Telegraph Digital