Newly released photographs show tense hours in White House during Osama bin Laden raid
Newly released US government photographs show key moments inside the White House during the 2011 raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
The images show top officials shaking hands after learning bin Laden, who founded al Qaeda and masterminded the 9/11 attacks, was shot dead by a team of US Navy SEALS. They also show President Barack Obama calling other world leaders to tell them what had happened.
The photographs have been obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to the Obama Presidential Library by The Washington Post.
The US news service obtained more than 900 images taken by official White House photographers on 1 May 2011.
At around 4pm, Mr Obama was in the Situation Room conference room with his national security team when he heard the voice of Admiral William McRaven, who was commanding the operation from Afghanistan.
The president saw a live video feed of the raid in a smaller anteroom and said “I need to watch this” before leaving the conference room.
Air Force Brigadier General Brad Webb offered him his seat in the anteroom but Mr Obama said “sit down” and pulled up a hardback chair.
Mr Obama’s national security team soon squeezed into the roomwith him to watch the live video feed.
Minutes later Mr Obama and his team were told “Geronimo ID’d… Geronimo EKIA”.
Geronimo was the codename for bin Laden while “EKIA” stands for “enemy killed in action”.
After hearing those words, Mr Obama said: “We got him.”
The CIA and US military were later criticised for using the name of an Apache leader as a codename for the 9/11 mastermind.
The national security team later reconvened in the Situation Room conference room, where Admiral McRaven told them he was looking at the body and it appeared to be bin Laden.
He asked a SEAL who was 6ft 2ins to lie next to the body to confirm it matched the Al Qaeda leader’s height of 6ft 4ins.
Mr Obama replied: “Seriously, Bill. … All that planning and you couldn’t bring a tape measure?”
President Obama, who decided he would make the announcement of bin Laden’s death that night, then headed back to the White House to prepare for his speech.
Mr Obama phoned former presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton to tell them of the raid’s success.
He also called British prime minister David Cameron and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari.
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At around 10.30pm local time that night, White House staff were making changes to the president’s remarks before his televised speech just over an hour later.
The president had reportedly said he wanted to strike an optimistic tone about how if “America actually sticks to something” it can “do really big things”.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and vice president Joe Biden, who is now president of the United States, posed with rosary rings they had on their fingers during the raid.
At around 11.42pm local time, Mr Obama gave a televised address which was broadcast all the world.
He began by saying: “Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.”