The former Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden has been identified for the first time as Rob O’Neill.
The revelation on the military website SOFREP came ahead of a Fox News interview in which Mr O’Neill is expected to discuss the May 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where the terror mastermind was killed.
The 38-year-old is described as a veteran Navy SEAL who had concluded several tours of duty, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Montana native earned two Silver Stars and four Bronze Stars with Combat “V” among other decorations, the report said. He left the service after 16 years.
His decision to come out as the killer of al Qaeda leader bin Laden was made in part because he lost some military benefits, having left the SEALs before a full 20 years of service, according to the report.
He did so fully aware of the risks he faced.
“People are asking if we are worried that ISIS will come and get us because Rob is going public,” his father, Tom O’Neill, told the Mail Online.
“I say I’ll paint a big target on my front door and say ‘come and get us’.”
Mr O’Neill had already spoken to Esquire magazine in a piece published last year, but his identity had not been revealed and he had been identified only as “The Shooter”.
In that interview, he said he had joined the US Navy at the age of 19 following a heartbreak. He described the top secret lead-up to the raid, his training and finally the mission.
“I’m not religious, but I always felt I was put on the Earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was,” he told Esquire.
US Navy SEALs, both on active duty and retired, possess highly sensitive information about tactics and techniques that are central to the success of their secret and often dangerous missions overseas.
That is why they are obliged to sign non-disclosure agreements when they enter service and when they leave.
Another member of the team, Matt Bissonnette, who wrote a first-hand account called No Easy Day under the pseudonym Mark Owen, is under criminal investigation .
He is suing his ex-lawyers for allegedly giving him bad advice.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Mr O’Neill described how he killed bin Laden after he reached the third floor of the compound where bin Laden lived with his wives. He said that as other commandos peeled off, he found himself just behind the team’s “point-man” for the final assault on the bedroom.
When bin Laden appeared briefly in the doorway, the point-man fired but apparently missed, he said.
“I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway,” Mr O’Neill recalled. “There was bin Laden, standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders pushing her ahead” like a human shield.
“In that second I shot him, two times in the forehead,” he said. “Bap! Bap! The second time, as he is going down. He crumbled to the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again.”
Mr O’Neill told the Post that it was clear bin Laden had died instantly, his skull split by the first bullet. “I watched him take his last breaths,” he said.
It is a dramatic account. It is also wrong, according to at least two other Seals and military chiefs, quoted anonymously by CNN and the New York Times.
They insisted that it was the unidentified “pointman” who fired the fatal shot and that when Mr O’Neill and Mr Bissonette burst into the bedroom, they merely shot more bullets into the already mortally wounded al-Qaeda chief as he lay stricken.
In another interview, Mr. O’Neill is saying that it doesn’t matter who ultimately took down the terrorist.
‘The most important thing that I’ve learned in the last two years is to me it doesn’t matter anymore if I am The Shooter,’ O’Neill said.
‘Regardless of the negativity that comes with it, I don’t give a f***. We got him.’
He also revealed in the interviews that he and his fellow SEALs did not think they would make it out alive after raiding bin Laden’s hideout.
‘Well, you have to go pump yourself up to go die. So we would talk about this,’ O’Neill said of their acknowledgement that this would likely be the end for them.
‘(It was a) group of guys who knew time on Earth was up, so you could be honest with each other. And we all accepted and nobody was afraid. It was really cool.’
The Fox News documentary is scheduled to air this month.
Source Credits: Sky News US Team, Philip Sherwell in The Telegraph, MailOnline