The Navy SEAL who fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden is a highly decorated veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who agonized for months over whether to publicly reveal his role in one of the most storied commando operations in U.S. history.
Robert O’Neill, 38, a Montana native, was near the head of the column of U.S. commandos who burst into bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout on May 2, 2011.
In a recent interview, O’Neill confirmed to The Washington Post that he fired the fatal shot that struck bin Laden in the forehead. He also acknowledged that shots were fired by at least two other SEAL team members, including Matt Bissonnette, who famously described the raid in the book, “No Easy Day.”
His impending decision had also fostered anger among colleagues.
In an Oct. 31 letter to the Naval Special Warfare ranks, B.L. Losey, the commanding officer, and M.L. Magaraci, the force master chief, emphasized that a “critical” tenet of their profession is to “not advertise the nature of my work nor seek recognition for my action.”
O’Neill said he confirmed his decision to go public after a private encounter with relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on New York’s World Trade Center. During an emotional meeting with victims’ family members before the recent opening of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, the former SEAL decided spontaneously to talk about how bin Laden met his end.
“The families told me it helped bring them some closure,” said O’Neill, whose identity as the shooter was independently corroborated for The Post by two SEAL team members.
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