We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

White House press secretary Jay Carney: Carney said the US was revising its account of bin Laden's death following the "fog of war". Carolyn Kaster/AP
Bin Laden

Bin Laden was unarmed: White House blames "fog of war" for revisions

Osama himself was unarmed – but still “resisted” capture by the US – while the woman who died was not his wife.

THE WHITE HOUSE has revised its story of how US Navy officers stormed Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, now conceding that the head of al-Qaeda was not armed when he was killed.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the official account of events was being revised “piece by piece” as new information was reviewed, attributing the inconsistencies in the story to what he termed the “fog of war”.

Though others at the compound were indeed armed and were involved in a ‘firefight’ with US commandos, bin Laden himself was “not armed” when he was killed by two bullet wounds.

Carney was quick to add, however, that bin Laden had still resisted his capture – but did not elaborate on the extent of his resistance.

Carney’s clarifications backtracked on some of the claims made by senior officials at the Pentagon and by the White House’s own anti-terrorism chief John Brennan, who said bin Laden had “engaged in a firefight” – specifically implying that the al-Qaeda leader, 54, was part of the exchange of fire.

Among other clarifications offered by the White House were that the woman killed in the raid on Sunday was not bin Laden’s wife; the deceased woman was caught in the downstairs crossfire between the US and bin Laden’s team.

Bin Laden’s wife, the White House now says, was shot in the leg after she rushed at his assailants when they entered their bedroom. Neither woman had been used as a “human shield”.

It remains disputed whether president Barack Obama and his team of senior advisers were able to watch the raid live while it happened: it had been suggested that the White House Situation Room was rigged up to a camera mounted on one soldier’s helmet, but CIA director Leon Panetta said the team did not know what was going on “for 20 to 25 minutes”.

Panetta last night said that the White House would “ultimately” release photographs of bin Laden’s corpse, although the White House itself said it was still deciding whether to do so – saying it thought the photos may have been too “gruesome”.

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister Eamon Gilmore this morning said he did not think there needed to be “triumphalism” about the death of bin Laden, and said publishing photographs of bin Laden’s corpse could provoke a risk of future terrorist activity.

A Pakistani intelligence official has said that up to 18 people were present in the compound at the time of the raid – including a girl of 12 or 13, who is thought to have been bin Laden’s youngest daughter.

The Telegraph reported that the girl was a witness to the shooting of bin Laden, and that she is now in custody of Pakistani officials. Another survivor of the attack – possibly bin Laden’s son – was captured by the Americans, it said.

A senior defence official had previously told reporters that no detainees were taken – while also stating that bin Laden “did resist”, and that he and others “certainly did use women as shields”.