Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Navy SEAL who shot bin Laden was at war for years

15 November 2014, 07:33

Washington — Former Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill, who says he fired the shots that killed Osama bin Laden, played a role in some of the most consequential combat missions of the post-9/11 era, including three depicted in Hollywood movies. And now he's telling the world about them.

By doing so, O'Neill has almost certainly increased his earning power on the speaking circuit. He also may have put himself and his family at greater risk. And he has earned the enmity of some current and former SEALs by violating their code of silence.

But O'Neill, winner of two Silver and five Bronze Stars, makes no apologies for any of that. In a wide-ranging interview Friday with The Associated Press, he said he believes the American public has a right to more details about the operation that killed the al-Qaida leader and other important military adventures. And he insisted he is taking pains not to divulge classified information or compromise the tactics SEALs use to get the drop on their enemies.

"The last thing I want to do is endanger anybody," he said. "I think the good (of going public) outweighs the bad."

O'Neill, who last week began discussing his role in the bin Laden mission, was in Washington for a round of television and media appearances that drew both praise and criticism.

After helicoptering to the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, assaulting the house and killing three men and a woman, some of the SEALs reached the third floor, where a CIA analyst had told O'Neill that bin Laden would be. O'Neill followed an unnamed point man into bin Laden's bedroom, he told the AP, and the point man tackled two women, believing they had a bomb, in what O'Neill calls an incredibly selfless act.

"A few feet in front of me, on two feet, was Osama bin Laden," O'Neill said. "I shot him three times in the head and I killed him."

Many are impressed by the deed, but not everyone is impressed with the telling.

"We work in secret and we pride ourselves on that, so if somebody comes out and spills this much, it angers the rest of us," Jonathan Gilliam, a former SEAL, said in an interview.

But Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles Burlingame was the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon, has said that O'Neill's descriptions were gratifying to the relatives of victims at a 9/11 museum ceremony where he donated the uniform he was wearing.

O'Neill's key role in the 2011 bin Laden raid was hardly his only brush with a high-profile mission. He was on the 2009 mission to rescue the captain of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage by Somali pirates. That episode was featured in the Tom Hanks movie "Captain Phillips."

And he was part of the group that helped retrieve Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of a four-man team attacked in 2005 while tracking a Taliban leader in Afghanistan. The Luttrell episode was featured in the 2013 film "Lone Survivor."

Long before those operations, O'Neill came to embody the dramatic transformation of the role of U.S. special operations over the last 13 years.

O'Neill joined the Navy in 1995, and in those pre-9/11 days, the SEALs did a lot of training with foreign militaries. High-risk operations in remote locations, let alone gun fights, were few and far between.

After the U.S. went to war against al-Qaida, the SEALs and other elite units were called upon for one combat mission after another — in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. O'Neill believes he killed more than 30 people.

His most fulfilling time as a SEAL, he said, came in Iraq in 2007, when he was going on multiple combat missions a night, stalking and killing insurgents and bomb-makers.

One current and two former SEALs, declining to be quoted talking about a sensitive matter, say it is not disputed that O'Neill shot at bin Laden. But Pentagon officials say it's not clear whose shots were the lethal ones.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Apologise for attack on Auditor G...

Apologise for attack on Auditor General, President Uhuru Kenyatta is told by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Quit if you can't fight corruptio...

An MP has told President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit office if he cannot fight corruption. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Investigate Uhuru, Ruto for corru...

Investigate President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto's offices over corruption, CORD leader Raila Odinga has said. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Its a 1 horse race to State House...

Its a 1 horse race to State House, DP William Ruto has mocked the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Enjoy your time left in power, We...

CORD Co Principal Moses Wetangu'la has told the Jubilee Coalition to enjoy its last few months in power before it is voted out in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Stop hiding in State House and sa...

ODM MP's have called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to release drought aid and to stop sitting on public funds. Read more...