Report says bin Laden's guns found untouched after his death


THE AMERICAN soldiers who killed Osama bin Laden found his two guns only after he was dead, while they photographed his dead body, according to a detailed new account of the al-Qaeda leader’s final moments.

The Associated Press revelation will add further fuel for critics who say US forces acted illegally in killing the unarmed Saudi fugitive. The Obama administration insists the shooting was lawful.

Meanwhile, US relations with Pakistan have found a fresh point of friction following an exchange of fire between Nato and Pakistani forces along the Afghan border. Two Pakistani soldiers were injured after opening fire on two Nato helicopters that crossed into Datta Khel, North Waziristan.

Pakistan’s military condemned the incident as a “violation of Pakistan air space” and lodged a “strong protest”. A Nato spokesman in Kabul said the shooting started after a Nato base came under fire from the Pakistani side of the border.

The AP account of the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, based on interviews with senior US officials, resolves some subsidiary mysteries about the size and sequence of the dramatic US navy seal raid that ended the hunt for bin Laden on May 2nd. But it also throws up fresh questions about how Pakistan’s air defence systems failed to stop the American forces entering or leaving.

The US raiding party slipped into Pakistan in five helicopters – two stealth Black Hawks carrying 23 navy seals, an interpreter and a sniffer dog named Cairo, and three Chinooks carrying 24 backup soldiers that landed in a remote mountain area north of Abbottabad, the garrison town where bin Laden was hiding. In recent days, two Pakistani television channels have identified the mountain area as Khala Dhaka, a semi-autonomous tribal area, having interviewed villagers who saw the crafts land and take off.

The soldiers planned to swoop on bin Laden’s house from three sides: sliding down ropes on to the roof, the compound and outside the wall. But the first Black Hawk swayed erratically as it hovered over the compound because of higher than expected temperatures and crashed against a wall. The pilot ditched the plane in bin Laden’s yard and the entire raiding party entered from the ground floor, using small explosives to blow their way through walls and doors.

The AP reported the Americans found “barriers” at each stair landing of the three-storey building, encountered fire once and killed three men and one woman. The account did not specify how many of the dead were armed. On the top floor they found bin Laden at the end of the hallway. They said they recognised him “immediately”. Bin Laden ducked into a room, followed quickly by three seals.

The first soldier pushed aside two women who tried to protect bin Laden, apparently fearing they were wearing suicide vests, while the second opened fire on the al-Qaeda leader, hitting him in the head and chest. Moments later, as the Americans photographed his body, they found an AK-47 rifle and a Makarov pistol on a shelf beside the door they had just entered. Bin Laden had not touched the weapons, according to the AP account.

Controversy over bin Laden’s death has dogged the White House since May 2nd, especially after early claims that he had been armed and used one of his wives as a human shield proved to be false.

The only witnesses who could contradict the American account are bin Laden’s three wives and children, who are currently in Pakistani custody. After much pressure from Washington, US officials were allowed briefly to speak with them last week.

The women reportedly refused to answer questions and Pakistan says they will be repatriated to their native Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It is not clear when this will happen. – ( Guardianservice)