Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Calvin Woodward, The Associated Press
(Continued from page 2)
In this photo take Tuesday, local people and media gather outside the perimeter wall and sealed gate of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed.
It is not confirmed whether the shots came from one commando, two or in a spray of gunfire.
After the nerve-wracking, nearly half-hour gap in information from the scene, Washington got word that "Geronimo" was killed in action.
The raiders' work was not done.
They quickly swept the compound, retrieving possibly crucial records on the operations of al-Qaida.
They destroyed the chopper that gave them trouble. This renewed worries that Pakistani authorities would discover the mission prematurely. Neighbors certainly noticed.
"We had to blow the helicopter," Panetta said, "and that probably woke up a lot of people, including the Pakistanis."
The non-combatants, their hands bound with plastic ties as the operation unfolded, were left for Pakistani officials to round up.
About 10 days before the raid, Obama was briefed on the plan. It included keeping two backup helicopters just outside Pakistani airspace in case something went wrong. But Obama felt that was risky. If the SEALs needed help, they couldn't afford to wait for backup.
He said the operation needed a plan in case the SEALs had to fight their way out. So two Chinooks were sent into Pakistani airspace, loaded with backup teams, just in case. One of those Chinooks landed in the compound after the Black Hawk became inoperable.
The raiders scrambled aboard the remaining Black Hawk and a Chinook, bin Laden's body with them, and flew to the USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea. The ground operation had taken about 40 minutes.
Only after the Americans left the area was Pakistan informed of what had happened on its territory.
Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen called Pakistani Army chief Ashfaq Kayani to tell him that an operation he had not known about was complete, a U.S. official told AP. Panetta called his Pakistani counterpart shortly afterward.
Mere hours after the operation, before most of the world knew bin Laden was found and killed, his body was buried at sea.