Osama bin Laden raid: Four fresh twists in the story

Figuring out precisely what took place at the Osama bin Laden compound in the early hours of the US commando team strike has led to some bracing twists and turns in the narrative. At a Pentagon briefing Friday, reporters ribbed military officials, saying they were looking forward to hearing the fifth and newest version of how the operation to strike the terrorist mastermind unfolded.

Here are the four latest plot turns in the bin Laden story:

Washington

1.Bin Laden’s final moments

A military working dog outfitted with its own equipment and light heads up the steps of a building in this handout image from the company 'K9 Storm Inc.' Reports suggest that a explosive-sniffing dog took part in the raid on Osama bin Laden's compund in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Sunday. (K9 Storm Inc./REUTERS)

Information being released from the White House late this week attempted to put to rest questions about whether Mr. bin Laden was armed, and whether he went down fighting.

These were questions that grew more heated after the White House divulged sharply conflicting reports – chief among them, that bin Laden used one of his wives as a human shield. It was an account subsequently dismissed by another White House official.

According to the latest reports released by the administration, bin Laden was found on the third floor of his compound, in the doorway of his bedroom. When he turned and retreated, he was shot twice, in the head and in the chest. The Navy SEAL team later found an AK-47 and a pistol in bin Laden’s room, according to reports.

“He was retreating,” a US official told The Washington Post, which he added is a move that is regarded as resistance warranting US commando team fire. “Is he getting a weapon?” the official said. “You don’t know why he’s retreating, [or] what he’s doing when he goes back in there.”

The raid involved 79 US commandos and a working military dog, which may have been used to detect explosives – and may have been equipped with protective eyewear known as “doggles." The use of dogs is on the rise throughout dangerous regions of Afghanistan, where they are often more successful in locating roadside bombs than high-tech equipment fielded by the Pentagon, say US military officials.

The CIA's safe house

Reports suggest that the CIA had a safe house near the compound where Osama bin Laden lived (pictured), but never actually saw him. (Anjum Naveed/AP)

Despite the painstaking effort of intelligence officials to confirm bin Laden's presence at the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound, at least one member of the SEAL team was apparently surprised that the US had actually found its man.

A “hot mike” worn by one of the Navy SEALs on the scene reportedly recorded him saying, “Damn, it is him,” when he encountered bin Laden on the third floor of his compound, a senior US military official tells the Monitor.

Reports in two major newspapers indicated the lengths to which CIA operatives went to try to confirm bin Laden's whereabouts, renting a house in bin Laden’s neighborhood months earlier. The house was tricked out with high-tech observation equipment and mirrored glass windows, but intelligence officials said that they were nonetheless unable to ever capture bin Laden in a photograph or definitively confirm that he was in the compound prior to the US commando raid.

“You’ve got to give him credit for his tradecraft,” a former CIA official told The Washington Post of bin Laden’s determined refusal to rarely if ever set foot outdoors.

Bin Laden was still scheming

Osama bin Laden speaks in a video broadcast on Oct. 7, 2001. (Al-Jazeera/AP/file)

US officials began to release details late Thursday about the treasure trove of documents uncovered at bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. These documents indicate that though his communication exchanges were far from speedy, bin Laden continued to direct global operations for his terrorist organization, including plans for attacks on vulnerable American targets.

A handwritten notebook seized during the US commando raid included outlines of how Al Qaeda was planning to derail a train on a bridge, perhaps on Christmas, or during President Obama’s State of the Union address, or on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a US official told The New York Times.

For its part, Al Qaeda has seemingly dismissed conspiracy theories that bin Laden is still alive. The terrorist group confirmed bin Laden’s death – and vowed revenge. “We stress that the blood of the holy warrior sheik, Osama bin Laden, God bless him, is precious to us and to all Muslims and will not go in vain. We will remain, God willing, a curse chasing the Americans and their agents, following them outside and inside their countries.”

They added that bin Laden’s final audio message, which they said was recorded last week, will be released in the days to come.

Pakistan knew?

Pakistani policemen stand guard outside the hideout of Osama bin Laden, which stands near the country's top military academy in Abbottabad. (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Newscom)

This is the opinion of Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who is opening a congressional investigation into what the Pakistani government knew regarding bin Laden’s suburban enclave. It was located just down the road from the Pakistani military academy.

“I think at high levels – high levels being the intelligence service – at high levels, they knew it,” Senator Levin told ABC News. “I can’t prove it. I just think it’s counterintuitive not to.”

Pakistan’s top Army official warned that any similar US commando operation in the country would be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and would harm relations between the two countries. For now, the US military has not been asked to remove any of the “a little under 300” US service members currently in the country, Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan told reporters Friday.

“We have not been alerted to any new decisions about the size of our personnel in Pakistan,” he said, adding that “the numbers ebb and flow over time.”