U.S. President Barack Obama watched events unfold sitting in the White House Situation Room, thousands of miles away from the al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The ‘real time’ pictures were reportedly relayed to the White House via a video camera fixed to the helmet of a US Navy Seal.
In one picture released by the White House, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sits near the president, her hand covering her mouth. Mr Obama is leaning forward in his chair in the same photograph, watching intently as the raid takes place. He is also seen in a close-up image with his mouth covered by his knuckles. Another picture shows the president pointing while talking to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
His counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan described the high levels of tension as the mission went on, the president fearing for the safety of those attempting to capture bin Laden. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time I think in the lives of the people who were assembled here,” said John Brennan.
He continued: “The minutes passed like days. The president was very concerned about the security of our personnel. That was what was on his mind throughout and we wanted to make sure we were able to get through this and accomplish the mission. But it was clearly very tense, a lot of people holding their breath, and there was a fair degree of silence as it progressed as we would get the updates.”
“When we finally were informed that those individuals who were able to go in that compound and found an individual that they believed was bin Laden, there was a tremendous sigh of relief that what we believed and who we believed was in that compound was actually in that compound and was found. The president was relieved once we had our people and those remains (of bin Laden) off target.”
He added that the mission was watched “in real time” by Mr Obama and senior US government officials, but he would not divulge details of the kind of footage they had access to. What Mr Brennan would say was: “It gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis.”
It has emerged that bin Laden used one of his wives as a human shield in a bid to protect himself and that she too was killed. Mr Brennan said that action revealed “the nature of the individual he was”. [photos via The White House/Flickr; story via The Telegraph (UK) and The Globe and Mail]