May 6th, 2011
10:24 AM ET

Latest updates: How the raid against Osama bin Laden went down

Below is the most current account of the origins and execution of an early Monday morning raid that resulted in the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and four others. These details are from U.S. officials, unless otherwise noted.

- Four years ago, U.S. officials uncover the identity of a trusted bin Laden courier - later identified as a Kuwaiti named Abu Ahmad - whom they believed may have been living with and protecting the al Qaeda leader. Two years later, investigators identify parts of Pakistan where the courier and his brother lived.

- In late 2010, U.S. authorities hone in on a housing compound in Abbottabad, which is 30 to 35 miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

- The compound is placed under constant U.S. surveillance, and the CIA gets reports of repeated sightings on a tall man doing "prison yard walks" around the compound yard. They don't definitively identify this man as bin Laden beforehand, but President Barack Obama orders the go-ahead for the raid on April 29 after concluding there's enough evidence suggesting the al Qaeda leader is there.

- The assault is code-named "Operation Neptune Spear," a U.S. official said Thursday. On Monday, a senior Obama administration official said that "Geronimo" was code for the act of capturing or killing bin Laden, not the man himself.

- The CIA and U.S. military decide to move in overnight Sunday in part due to good weather, maximum darkness in the area and a worry that potential targets might move to other locations.

- The raid locale is a compound with outer walls up to 18 feet tall topped with barbed wire, with two security gates and a series of internal walls that sectioned off different portions of the compound. The main structure is a three-story building with few windows facing the outside of the compound, and a third-floor terrace had a 7-foot privacy wall, they said.

- Two families lived at the compound, along with that of bin Laden. One resided on the main house's first floor, while the other was in another building.

- The entire mission is coordinated by Adm. William McRaven, the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees covert operations involving Navy SEALs. He does so from a base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

- President Obama follows the mission in "real time" from the White House's Situation Room in what was then Sunday afternoon in Washington. He is joined by members of his national security and key members of his administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

- About two dozen U.S. special operations forces, specifically Navy SEALs, fly by helicopter into Abbottobad, Pakistan, early on the morning of Monday, May 2.

- The team had orders to "capture or kill" bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. CIA Director Leon Panetta told PBS the commandos had "full authority" to kill bin Laden if he did not surrender.

- One helicopter makes a hard landing, when it apparently comes too close to a wall. It lands inside the western side of the compound, with its tail rotor over the southern wall, a U.S. official with knowledge of the Navy SEALs' debreifings on the raid said Thursday. Photos later show the helicopter clearly damaged, but in tact.

The SEALs in this helicopter get out safely, and go through an inner wall to get to the building where bin Laden was found.

- A second helicopter lands outside, near the compound's northern wall. The SEALs on that aircraft breach the outer wall to launch their attack.

- The U.S. commandos encounter a man, later identified as Ahmad, in a guesthouse at the south end of the compound. He fires at the SEALs, who quickly kill him.

- From this point on, no other forces fire at the U.S. Navy SEALs, according to the U.S. official on Thursday. This contrasts to earlier reports, also citing U.S. officials, which described the operation as a firefight throughout.

- The SEALs move into the compound's main three-story building, along the complex's northern wall. They shoot and kill the courier's brother on the building's main floor.

- The U.S. commandos climb up the stairs and encounter a man later determined to be one of bin Laden's sons. The son rushes at the SEALs and is killed.

- Neither the courier's brother nor bin Laden's son has weapons on them or nearby, a U.S. official says Thursday - again, running counter to earlier reports that the U.S. forces had been engaged in a firefight. But it is determined that the men still posed an imminent threat, according to the official.

- The SEALs climb further upstairs, up to the third-floor room where bin Laden is with his Yemeni wife and several small children. He is shot first in the chest, then in the head above his left eye, while moving possibly toward weapons in the room.

- Bin Laden himself never held a gun or used a woman as a shield, as U.S. officials once reported, but authorities thought he was enough of a threat to warrant shooting him.

- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that bin Laden made no attempt to surrender.

- One of the SEALs lay down beside the body, later identified as bin Laden, after the shooting to try to better gauge his height.

- In addition to these four men, a still unidentified adult woman is killed in the raid.

- Besides taking away bin Laden's body, the U.S. commandos also make off with extensive materials from the compound. That includes audio and video equipment, 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks and thumb drives, a senior U.S. official tells CNN. Commandos also recover five cell phones, paper documents and five guns, including AK-47s and pistols. The bodies of all others killed were left behind.

- A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says bin Laden's wounded wife Amal al-Sadah is now in Pakistani custody. An earlier, since refuted report had wrongly suggested that this wife was killed. A U.S. official says she was shot in the leg when she rushed the commandos.

- The entire operation - from the time the SEALs land at the compound to when they take off - takes 38 minutes.

- Pakistan scrambles fighter jets in response to the attack, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says Monday. But they do not arrive until after U.S. forces had flown away from Pakistan.

- Bin Laden's remains are flown to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, then in the North Arabian Sea. After DNA tests and further confirmations of his identity, he is buried at sea within 12 hours of his killing "in conformance with Islamic precepts and practices," White House press secretary Jay Carney says Tuesday.

- President Obama decides not to release photos of the slain terrorist leader, Carney says Wednesday.

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Military • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • Terrorism
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Paul Foltz

    Come on CNN! We have heard enough about OBL. Let's get on with our lives.

    May 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Daddy Barbarosa

      I think that this OBL mess is overblown who gives a damn that he was buried at sea and why do Americans want to see death photos. And if the American military would have burned his body on live t.v. would people still be satisfied, and if this was done wouldnt this make us monsters and terrorist like Al Queda. President Obama and the military were use tact when they just buried OBL at see.

      May 6, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Regina

    If we were able to see all the death that surrounded 9/11 than we should be able to see the death photos of the man responsible.

    May 6, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Copper

      You actually consider that a reason to show him? I want to see the body as well, just out of curiosity. The public would end up making it a joke, putting it in a million "motivational posters" which would further aggravate Al-Qaeda (sp?). Knowing he's dead provided as much "closure" for the families of the 9/11 victims, a picture of a bloody pulp scrapings of a body will not help. You just want to see the body.

      May 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • john

      very well said regina see i dont understand all that drama about making the muslims more mad with his death photos cuz as we proved just yesterday they are plotting things against us anyways so it wont make a difference if anything it would make them rush into something without thinking it through and we would catch them in the act

      May 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Really?

    OBL does not nor has he ever existed.My psychic abilities tell me that the phots of "him" are actually that of a guy named Dunfulmi.Time is running out.Prepare for the mothership that is being cloaked by the meteor shower.Its here to take us back to our mother world!

    May 6, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar

    I want Osama's muslim balls.

    May 6, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. i rock

    i got dib's on his balls

    May 6, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. nur amabo nur

    Again the story is very un-clear about how they left with 25+ people and computer equipment in 1 choper with a max internal weight rating of 2640 pounds. Maybe we used baby seals ?

    May 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • ruth milcarek

      The USA got him even with the possibility of Pakistan knowing he was there. Amen to the United States Great Job.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JOYCE

      Don't worry about it.....they did it successfully!

      May 6, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bill Bellamy

    What's with all the misinformation?? I get it being possible coming from reporters who often get it second, third or fourth hand, but the President of the USA???

    May 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • DoubleW

      Watching a fast-moving operation from a distance results in less trustworthy reports than a careful and systematic "debriefing" of the people who were actually involved. I imagine we will see some best-selling books on the raid within a month... and soon afterward, numerous screeds by "Deathers" trying to "debunk" the entire event.

      May 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ruth milcarek

    looks to me like Pakistan was receiving pay offs from both the United States, and Bin Laden to shelter him. Our financial help with their country and his money to not tip off the United States. If we fund them any more money even with their nuclear weapons I think we are nuts. We need to leave all those countries, and let them fight with themselves. Cause you really don't know who is enemy and who is not. Time to rebuild the United States and make us prosper once more.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dotmafia

    Something smells fishy, and it 'aint bin Laden's corpse. They had the most important valuable intelligen­ce asset on the entire planet in their possession - alive - and they screwed it up? Is that what they're seriously asking us to believe?! For all of you torture admirers, that's like Jack Bauer killing the terrorist head honcho just as he's about to reveal the location of the nuclear bomb! 25 of the best of the best, and they couldn't apprehend one single old man in his pyjamas with no gun??? Either one of them is extremely incompeten­t, or he was never gonna be allowed to surrender alive. There is no way you can honestly say that they considered computer disks and hard drives more important than the informatio­n inside the man's head! I suspect it wasn't a screwup, self-defen­se or righteous justice...­... The agenda appears to be the tying up of loose ends. Has bin Laden just become the 21st century Oswald???

    Oh, by the way, it`s impossible at this time to get accurate results in less than 12 hours from a DNA test. Nice try.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Copper

      Are you joking? you think you understand more about DNA tests than the U.S. government?

      May 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • dna9995

      That's why I think it's a possibility he is still alive...can anyone say "Extreme Rendition"? If we have him somewhere, we would want everyone to think he's dead, and they've got most believing that. If he's dead, fine. If they're conducting 'enhanced interrogations' that's fine too. When they're finished he can still swim with the fishes, concrete booties and all.

      May 6, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. George Patton

    Just when are we going to hear the end of all of this hallabaloo over this brutal murder anyway. It's starting to get old and I find it disgusting anyway. Even after WW2 they never carried on like this!

    May 6, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • dna9995

      Oh no...at Nuremberg, George we just hanged them all. We would never be so brutal now. Leave the dirty work to the military, that's how it's supposed to work.

      May 6, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    George Patton~ your not the sharpest tool in the shed are you? You've been posting the same useless drivel since Osama's death. Try to read, understand, absorb and believe what has been proven. If he was alive don't you think he would have popped his head out and at least said hello, I'm still here just to make us look stupid? MARY~

    May 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • George Patton

      And how do you know that they murdered the true Ussama bin Laden,Mary? I still believe that the true Ussama bin Laden died years ago of kidney failure and that wouldn't set too well with the right-wing fanatics in Washington if everybody knew. It would spoil their "glory".

      May 6, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      -George Patton: Wait, right wing conservatives? Oh right, because we've got so many of those in the white house right now... :p

      May 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. JOYCE

    Much of the success of the Seals was due to their unknown methods and talents. Thank you, CNN, for reducing the effectiveness of the Seals and compromising the safety of these brave troops!

    May 6, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dante

    Saluting the SEAL Team:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpZ8qOXA3uY

    May 6, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Good grief,if one listens to the American people one would think that these bozoes in the Navy Seals were living saints!!! In fact,they're not. Only human beings like the rest of us mortals.

      May 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Peter

    Too many officials contradicting the raid story so many times to make it believable.

    May 6, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cesar

    I bet you do, fake Cesar. Since when is OBL a muslim?

    May 6, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
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