The Bin Laden Raid Five Years Later   Leave a comment


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It is hard to believe that it has been 5 years since the U.S. raid and killing of terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden. The terrorist that planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks and the African embassy bombings killing thousands of innocent civilians was finally cornered and killed by U.S. special operations forces.

Bin Laden wanted to engulf the world in an all-out religious war, Muslim fundamentalist armies against pretty well everybody else on the planet.  It was a psychotic vision carried out by an apocalyptic despot who saw anybody who disagreed with his narrow outlook as apostates who should be exterminated.  I don’t believe in hell, but in Bin Laden’s case I dearly hope there is a burning infinite pit of fire where the evil man will burn for eternity.

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Finding Bin Laden

BBC and ABC news.

American intelligence officials discovered the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden by tracking one of his couriers, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti as bin Laden was believed to have concealed his whereabouts from al-Qaeda foot soldiers or top commanders.

Identity of his courier

Identification of al-Qaeda couriers was an early priority for interrogators at CIA black sites and Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

By 2002 interrogators had heard uncorroborated claims about an al-Qaeda courier with the nom de guerre (or “pseudonym of war”) Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti (sometimes referred to as Sheikh Abu Ahmed, from Kuwait).  In 2003 Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged operational chief of al-Qaeda, revealed under interrogation that he was acquainted with al-Kuwaiti but that he was not active in al-Qaeda.

In 2004 an al-Qaeda prisoner named Hassan Ghul told interrogators that al-Kuwaiti was close to bin Laden as well as Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Mohammed’s successor Abu Faraj al-Libi.  Ghul further revealed that al-Kuwaiti had not been seen in some time, a fact which led U.S. officials to suspect he was traveling with bin Laden. When confronted with Ghul’s account, Khalid Sheik Mohammed maintained his original story. Abu Faraj al-Libi was captured in 2005 and transferred to Guantánamo in September 2006.  He told CIA interrogators that bin Laden’s courier was a man named Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti. Because both Mohammed and al-Libi had minimized al-Kuwaiti’s importance, officials speculated that he was part of bin Laden’s inner circle.

In 2007 officials learned al-Kuwaiti’s real name, though they will not disclose the name nor how they learned it. Since the name Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan appears in the JTF-GTMO detainee assessment for Abu Faraj al-Libi released by WikiLeaks on April 24, 2011,  there was speculation that the US assault on the Abbottābad compound was expedited as a precaution.  The CIA never found anyone named Maulawi Jan and concluded al-Libi made the name up.

A 2010 wiretap of another suspect picked up a conversation with al-Kuwaiti.  CIA officials located al-Kuwaiti in August 2010 and followed him back to bin Laden’s Abbottābad compound. The courier and a relative (who was either a brother or a cousin) were killed in the May 2, 2011 raid.  Afterward some locals identified the men as Pashtuns named Arshad and Tareq Khan.  Arshad Khan was carrying an old, noncomputerized Pakistani identitification card which said he was from Khat Kuruna, a village near Charsadda in northwestern Pakistan. Pakistani officials have found no record of an Arshad Khan in that area and suspect the men were living under false identities.

The CIA used surveillance photos and intelligence reports to determine the identities of the inhabitants of the Abbottābad compound to which the courier was traveling. In September 2010, the CIA concluded that the compound was “custom-built to hide someone of significance,” and that bin Laden’s residence there was very likely.  Officials surmised that he was living there with his youngest wife.

Google Earth maps show that the compound was not present in 2001, but did exist on images taken in 2005.  Built in 2004, the three-story compound was located “at the end of a narrow dirt road”,  2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of the city center of Abbottābad.  Abbottābad is about 100 miles from the Afghanistan border on the far eastern side of Pakistan (about 20 miles from India). The compound is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Pakistan’s “West Point”.  On a plot of land eight times larger than those of nearby houses, it was surrounded by 12-to-18-foot (3.7–5.5 m)  concrete walls topped with barbed wire.  There were two security gates, and the third-floor balcony had a seven-foot-high (2.1 m) privacy wall (which could hide the 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) bin Laden).

There was no Internet or telephone service connected to the compound. Its residents burned their trash, unlike their neighbors, who set their garbage out for collection.  Local residents called the building the Waziristan Haveli (haveli is a term used in India and Pakistan that roughly translates to mansion).

Aerial view of compound.

 

The Raid on Bin Laden’s Compound

The raid was carried out by approximately two dozen heliborne U.S. Navy SEALs from the Red Squadron of the Joint Special Operations Command’s U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), also known as SEAL Team Six. For legal reasons (namely that the U.S. was not at war with Pakistan), the military personnel assigned to the mission were temporarily transferred to the control of the civilian Central Intelligence Agency. The DEVGRU SEALs operated in two teams and were reportedly equipped with Heckler & Koch HK416 military assault rifles, Mark 48 machine guns used for fire support, FN SCAR-H STD Mk 17 battle rifles and H&K MP7A1 personal defense weapons (with attached Knight’s Armament QDSS-NT4 suppressors), Insight Technology AN/AVS-6 and GPVNG-18 (Ground Panoramic Night Vision Goggles) L-3 night-vision goggles, body armor and sidearms such as SIG Sauer P226R Navy MK25 and H&K Mark 23 Mod 0.

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According to The New York Times, a total of “79 commandos and a dog” were involved in the raid. The military working dog was a Belgian Malinois named Cairo. According to one report, the dog was tasked with tracking “anyone who tried to escape and to alert SEALs to any approaching Pakistani security forces”. The dog was to be used to help deter any Pakistani ground response to the raid and to help look for any hidden rooms or hidden doors in the compound. Additional personnel on the mission included a language interpreter, the dog handler, helicopter pilots, “tactical signals, intelligence collectors, and navigators using highly classified hyperspectral imagers”.

Navy Seals

 

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The SEALs flew into Pakistan from a staging base in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan after originating at Bagram Air Base in northeastern Afghanistan. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), a U.S. Army Special Operations Command unit known as the “Night Stalkers”, provided the two modified Black Hawk helicopters that were used for the raid itself, as well as the much larger Chinook heavy-lift helicopters that were employed as backups.

The Black Hawks appear to have been never-before-publicly-seen “stealth” versions of the helicopter that fly more quietly while being harder to detect on radar than conventional models; due to the weight of the extra stealth equipment on the Black Hawks, cargo was “calculated to the ounce, with the weather factored in.”

Stealth Blackhawk top, conventional model bottom

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Stealth Version

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The Chinooks kept on standby were on the ground “in a deserted area roughly two-thirds of the way” from Jalalabad to Abbottabad, with two additional SEAL teams consisting of approximately 24 DEVGRU operators for a “quick reaction force” (QRF). The Chinooks were equipped with 7.62mm GAU-17/A miniguns and GAU-21/B .50-caliber machine guns and extra fuel for the Black Hawks. Their mission was to interdict any Pakistani military attempts to interfere with the raid. Other Chinooks, holding 25 more SEALs from DEVGRU, were stationed just across the border in Afghanistan in case reinforcements were needed during the raid.

The 160th SOAR helicopters were supported by multiple other aircraft, including fixed-wing fighter jets and drones. According to CNN, “the Air Force had a full team of combat search-and-rescue helicopters available”.

The raid was scheduled for a time with little moonlight so the helicopters could enter Pakistan “low to the ground and undetected”. The helicopters used hilly terrain and nap-of-the-earth techniques to reach the compound without appearing on radar and alerting the Pakistani military. The flight from Jalalabad to Abbottabad took about 90 minutes.

According to the mission plan, the first helicopter would hover over the compound’s yard while its full team of SEALs fast-roped to the ground. At the same time, the second helicopter would fly to the northeast corner of the compound and deploy the interpreter, the dog and handler, and four SEALs to secure the perimeter. The team in the courtyard was to enter the house from the ground floor.

As they hovered above the target, however, the first helicopter experienced a hazardous airflow condition known as a vortex ring state. This was aggravated by higher than expected air temperature (“a so-called ‘hot and high’ environment”) and the high compound walls, which stopped the rotor downwash from diffusing. The helicopter’s tail grazed one of the compound’s walls, damaging its tail rotor, and the helicopter rolled onto its side. The pilot quickly buried the aircraft’s nose to keep it from tipping over. None of the SEALs, crew and pilots on the helicopter were seriously injured in the soft crash landing, which ended with it pitched at a 45-degree angle resting against the wall. The other helicopter landed outside the compound and the SEALs scaled the walls to get inside. The SEALs advanced into the house, breaching walls and doors with explosives.

The Killing of Bin Laden

The SEALs encountered the residents in the compound’s guest house, in the main building on the first floor where two adult males lived, and on the second and third floors where bin Laden lived with his family. The second and third floors were the last section of the compound to be cleared. There were reportedly “small knots of children … on every level, including the balcony of bin Laden’s room”.

Osama bin Laden was killed in the raid, and initial versions said three other men and a woman were killed as well: bin Laden’s adult son Khalid, bin Laden’s courier (Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti), al-Kuwaiti’s brother Abrar, and Abrar’s wife Bushra.

In the earlier versions, Al-Kuwaiti is said to have opened fire on the first team of SEALs with an AK-47 from behind the guesthouse door, lightly injuring a SEAL with bullet fragments. A short firefight took place between al-Kuwaiti and the SEALs, in which al-Kuwaiti was killed. His wife Mariam was allegedly shot and wounded in the right shoulder. The courier’s male relative Abrar was then said to have been shot and killed by the SEALs’ second team on the first floor of the main house as shots had already been fired and the SEALs thought that he was armed (this was later confirmed to be true in the official report). A woman near him, later identified as Abrar’s wife Bushra, was, in this version, also shot and killed. Bin Laden’s young adult son is said to have encountered the SEALs on the staircase of the main house, and to have been shot and killed by the second team. An unnamed U.S. senior defense official stated that only one of the five people killed, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, was armed. The interior of the house was pitch dark, because CIA operatives had cut the power to the neighborhood. However, the SEALs wore night vision goggles.

 

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The SEALs encountered bin Laden on the third floor of the main building. Bin Laden was “wearing the local loose-fitting tunic and pants known as a kurta paijama“, which were later found to have €500 and two phone numbers sewn into the fabric.

Bin Laden peered through his bedroom door at the Americans advancing up the stairs, and then retreated into the room as the lead SEAL fired a shot at him, which either missed or hit him in the side. Robert O’Neill, who later publicly identified himself as the SEAL who shot bin Laden, rolled through the door and confronted bin Laden inside the bedroom. Seymour Hersh reports that, according to his sources, Bin Laden was found cowering and shot dead.

O’Neill states that bin Laden was standing behind a woman with his hands on her shoulders, pushing her forward. O’Neill immediately shot bin Laden twice in the forehead, then once more as bin Laden crumpled to the floor. Matt Bissonnette, who entered the room at about the same time, also claims to have fired shots into bin Laden’s fallen body. Simultaneously, in these versions, one of bin Laden’s wives, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah is said to have screamed at the SEALs in Arabic and motioned as if she were about to charge. The lead SEAL shot her in the leg, then grabbed both women and shoved them aside. The weapon used to kill bin Laden was a HK416 allegedly using 5.56mm NATO 77-grain OTM (open-tip match) rounds made by Black Hills Ammunition. The SEAL team leader radioed, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo”, and then, after being prompted by McRaven for confirmation, “Geronimo E.K.I.A.” (enemy killed in action). Watching the operation in the White House Situation Room, Obama said, “We got him.”

There were, in these reports, said to be two weapons near bin Laden in his room, including an AKS-74U carbine and a Russian-made Makarov pistol, but according to his wife Amal, he was shot before he could reach his AKS-74U. According to the Associated Press, the guns were on a shelf next to the door and the SEALs did not see them until they were photographing the body.

As the SEALs encountered women and children during the raid, they restrained them with plastic handcuffs or zip ties. After the raid was over, U.S. forces moved the surviving residents outside “for Pakistani forces to discover”. The injured Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah continued to harangue the raiders in Arabic. Bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter Safia was allegedly struck in her foot or ankle by a piece of flying debris.

While bin Laden’s body was taken by U.S. forces, the bodies of the four others killed in the raid were left behind at the compound and later taken into Pakistani custody.

And so ended a strange and sad saga in the history of the world. If one factors in Bush’s invasion of Iraq (purportedly spurred on by the 9/11 attacks) and the deaths that were caused by that invasion, some estimates put Iraqi dead at 250,000 or more, and the Afghanistan war. Bin Laden is directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of over half a million lives.

And his legacy lives on with the emergence of ISIS.  Another psychotic apocalyptic extreme Muslim movement that would not have emerged if not for Bush’s mega-blunder in Iraq.

 

Posted May 2, 2016 by markosun in Terrorists

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