Former Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill said in an interview with The Washington Post that he was the one who fired the final shot to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.
The 38-year-old Montanan also said that other SEAL team members were involved in the raid, including Mark Bissonnette, who detailed the group’s experiences in his memoir, “No Easy Day.”
O’Neill, who had been serving as a SEAL for 15 years at the time of the bin Laden raid, had participated in other missions before — but he said he feared this mission would be his most difficult.
“I didn’t think I would survive,” he told the Post.
He said it was clear that Bin Laden had been killed and not merely injured from his shot when he fell to the floor with a split skull. Before he was shot, bin Laden “had his hands on a woman’s shoulders pushing her ahead,” O’Neill recounts, likely to deflect the attack.
CNN’s Barbara Starr confirmed from a U.S. official that O’Neill was on the raid. Two Special Operations sources confirmed to CNN’s National Security analyst Peter Bergen that O’Neill was one of the shooters in bin Laden’s room — but others in the military community have wondered whether he can claim to kill bin Laden since there were at least two others in the room who fired weapons.
The Navy SEAL had previously revealed details of the mission to Esquire magazine. But he was hesitant to attach his name to the account until his identity was linked to the story on a military blog earlier this week without his consent. O’Neill also said his secret was known by members of Congress and some news organizations.
He also told the Post that he received a positive response from the families of 9/11 victims when he identified himself as bin Laden’s killer to them.
“The families told me it helped bring them some closure,” he said.
O’Neill’s move to go public is a controversial one, as it violates an unspoken military rule: Don’t seek attention for your service.
“We do not abide willful or selfish disregard for our core values in return for public notoriety or financial gain,” said an Oct. 31 letter to the Naval Special Warfare ranks from commanding officer B.L. Losey and force master sergeant M.L. Margaraci.
CNN has reached out to O’Neill but has not received a response.