Last month, Esquire published a riveting, in-depth interview describing the trials and tribulations of “the man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden.” It painted the unnamed “Shooter” as a hero who was now retired and fighting to provide for his family without access to government health care. It’s a wonderful story, but according to CNN and former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb, it’s “complete B.S.”
According to an inside source who spoke to Webb’s blog SOFREP, the man Esquire interviewed took part in the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound, even shooting at him, but “wasn’t the point man that put the well-placed rounds into UBL’s head that ended the terrorist leader’s life.”
"UBL" refers to the Pentagon's spelling of his name as "Usama."
“Sure, he was there, and deserves credit, but he wasn’t the man who shot UBL, and ended his life. And this is an important fact that must be clarified,” SOFREP clarifies.
According to the site’s claims, the man who really shot and killed bin Laden has never publicly announced himself and never will, in accordance with Navy SEAL policies.
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Esquire's "shooter" mostly likely did fire at Osama bin Laden, and may even have hit him, but only after SEAL Team 6’s “point man” delivered the fatal two headshots did bin Laden die, the blog says.
The two conflicting accounts of bin Laden’s death go like this: In the "shooter’s" version, as he and another SEAL walked up the stairs toward bin Laden on the third floor, the target stuck his head out from behind a door, and the first "point man" fired, but missed. Following that, he abandoned bin Laden in order to tackle two unarmed women that the SEALs believed may have been wearing suicide vests. It was then that the shooter saw bin Laden reaching for a gun and deliberately shot him twice in the forehead.
But based on the SOFREP’s informant’s story, the events played out more like this: As the point man advanced up the stairs, he did in fact fire on an unarmed Osama bin Laden, but his shots did not miss and hit the al Qaeda leader in the head, mortally wounding him. Then, only after “he saw that UBL was on the floor and no longer a threat,” the point man went to tackle the unarmed women. It was then that the "shooter" walked over to bin Laden’s body and possibly fired rounds into his dying body.
The proof for this version of events? For one, SOFREP’s informant claims that SEAL Team 6 was under strict orders not to shoot bin Laden in the head unless necessary. In the shooter’s version of events, he had a clear shot at bin Laden’s body, but chose to go for the head for an unknown reason. In the informant’s account, the point man shot bin Laden in the head because it was the only visible part.
CNN has also called Esquore’s "shooter" account into question. Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, claims that not only was the shooter not the man that killed bin Laden, he also did not voluntarily retire as he claims. According to an interview with SEAL Team 6’s operator, the shooter was “thrown off” his team after spending several nights bragging about killing bin Laden in Virginia bars.
Ultimately, the raid on bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound was a confusing and complicated event, and we may never have a wholly accurate account. However, these new interviews cast suspicion on Esquire’s account of the "shooter" and his role in bin Laden’s downfall.