WASHINGTON: A former US Navy SEAL who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and once rescued a ship captain from Somali pirates revealed himself Thursday as the man who killed Osama bin Laden.
Robert O´Neill, 38, told The Washington Post that he fired the fatal shot that hit the Al-Qaeda leader in the forehead at his hideout in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad in May 2011.
The former commando told the Post he decided to come forward ahead of planned media appearances next week when his identity was disclosed by SOFREP, a website operated by former SEALs.
SOFREP´s revelation was in protest at O´Neill´s decision to reveal his role in the mission.
The highly decorated Montana native told the Post that he was near the head of the column of US soldiers that raided bin Laden´s compound, adding that at least two other SEALs fired shots.
The newspaper said two SEAL team members had corroborated his identity. O´Neill is set to appear in a documentary on the Fox network next week.
At bin Laden´s compound, O´Neill was located in the number two position for the attack on the Al-Qaeda leader´s bedroom.
Bin Laden briefly appeared at the door but the SEAL in front of O´Neill apparently missed his shot.
“I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway,” O´Neill said. “There was bin Laden, standing there. He had his hands on a woman´s shoulders, pushing her ahead.”
O´Neill said he could clearly identify bin Laden through his night-vision scope, despite the darkness of the room — and he fired.
The onetime SEAL said it was clear that bin Laden was dead as his skull was split.