“You Just Killed Osama Bin Laden.”
MAXIM Australia|May 2021
As this month marks the 10th anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death, former U.S. Navy SEAL ROBERT O’NEILL shares his incredible story about the night he fired the shots that killed the al-Qaeda leader. In this edited extract from his book The Operator, O’Neill tells us how eliminating the world’s most wanted terrorist, during the raid at his Abbottabad compound on May 1, 2011, all went down…
Robert O'neill

I didn’t think the dead man looked like bin Laden, but I couldn’t linger. We still had an entire house to clear. We entered through the front door of the main building. A few of my guys were already ahead of us and were making their way down the hallway, clearing the rooms as they did. Some guys stayed back to search the two bodies. It was standard tactics and we were all experts. The floor was a long hallway with rooms off to the sides and a barricaded door on the far end. In a spot like this, you clear the rooms, in order, and spend the least possible amount of time in the hallway. Bad guys will “spray and pray” down hallways. Even though Allah isn’t always around to guide their bullets, they do get lucky sometimes.

On all sides, we could hear women and children crying — we later learned that living with bin Laden in the compound were three of his four wives and 17 children — but that level of habitation was no different than in many of our targets. There were four rooms. I entered the last one on the far right of the hallway. A little girl was in there, obviously terrified and alone. Even in this tensest possible situation, we couldn’t just ignore her. One of the guys took her arm and led her across the hall and into another room already filled with women and children where he handed her over to one of the women. We were in a fight and looking for the world’s most wanted man, and he was making sure a young girl was as safe as possible under the circumstances. He came back into my room, and we were looking down the hallway where two of our guys were breaching the barricaded door. After failing to make sufficient headway with a sledge, they stopped to put charges on it. The door obviously led to stairs up to the next level, so we had to just stand in the room and wait until they got it open. I heard the guy behind me say something about a helicopter crash. My immediate thought was that one of the Chinooks carrying the reserve squadron forty-five minutes behind us had been shot down, so I said, “What helicopter crashed? The reserve team?”

“No, dude,” he said. “Our helicopter crashed in the front yard. You walked right past it.” I thought, Well, shit, now we’re never getting out of here because we only have one helicopter. We better get up there and kill him before they blow up the place. All along we’d been scanning the ceilings, looking for hanging bombs — which is how the bad guys set up a lot of their booby traps, intended to bring the entire house down. We were surprised we hadn’t seen any. Yet. The breachers blew the charges on the stairwell door and it split open.

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