White House: Bin Laden Was Not Armed, But Did Resist Capture

The White House has clarified several of the basic facts of the assault on Osama bin Laden’s residence, including several items I wrote about yesterday:

White House officials on Tuesday sought to correct the official account of the raid in Pakistan that ended in the killing of Osama bin Laden, saying that the Qaeda leader was not armed and that his wife was not killed.

The new Defense Department narrative released by the White House, and read at a White House news briefing on Tuesday, said that one of Bin Laden’s wives was shot in the leg as she charged members of the commando team on the third floor of the compound.

“In the room with Bin Laden, a woman – Bin Laden’s wife – rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” the brief statement said. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, read the narrative in an attempt to correct statements by administration officials who had suggested that Bin Laden was armed during the raid.

Under questioning, Mr. Carney said that the White House stood by its claim on Monday that Bin Laden had resisted capture, but said that “resistance does not require a firearm.” Mr. Carney said that the new narrative was the result of “fresh” information.

“I want to make clear that this is, again, information that is fresh and, you know, we will continue to gather and provide to you details as we get them and we’re able to release them,” Mr. Carney said. “The resistance was throughout, as I said.”

On Monday, John O. Brennan, the top counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, said he believed that Bin Laden’s wife had been killed while trying to shield the terror leader during the 40-minute raid.

But the narrative released Tuesday by Mr. Carney suggested that the woman who died in the raid was part of another family living at the compound. The narrative says that woman was shot and killed on the first floor, not the third floor, where Bin Laden was found and killed.

“On the first floor of Bin Laden’s building, two Al Qaeda couriers were killed along with a woman who was killed in cross-fire,” Mr. Carney said. “Bin Laden and his family were found on the second and third floor of the building. There was concern that Bin Laden would oppose the capture operation, and indeed he resisted.”

Neither the Defense Department narrative nor Mr. Carney made any mention of the woman who was killed having been used as a “human shield” during the firefight, as previously described.

While some may try to make something of this, I think it can largely be attributed to the fog of war and the fact that all the information from the raid hadn’t been fully processed when Brennan spoke, or that he hadn’t been fully briefed. Of course, if that’s the case then he probably shouldn’t have gone into such detail either.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

    In other words, he was assasinated.

  2. Southern Hoosier says:

    Let the spin begin.

  3. Southern Hoosier says:

    Patrick T. McGuire says:Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 17:35

    “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

    In other words, he was assassinated.

    How about premeditated murder?

    “In the room with Bin Laden, a woman – Bin Laden’s wife – rushed the U.S. assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed,” the brief statement said. “Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”

    So they could wound his wife, but not him.

  4. John Peabody says:

    C’mon, two people in the same room often give different testimony. In a highly charged and heated moment as this, even the participants cannot give a straight answer at first. One hurried comment yelled into a combat radio can become a white house podium statement in mere hours. It takes TIME (something most Americans don’t have) to complete a combat report. Cold words on a screen have very little resemblance to an armed confrontation. Reading a single report only 24 hours old will almost always give you incorrect information.

  5. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If Bin Laden truly wasn’t armed then he was even more stupid than he is dead.

  6. jwest says:

    Were Bin Laden’s children “double tapped” in the head?

    “Khurshid Bibi, in her 70s, says one man living in the compound had given her a lift to the market in the rain. She says her grandchildren played with the kids in the house and that the adults there gave them rabbits as a gift.”

    Read more: http://www.news.com.au/world/osama-bin-laden-dead-us-has-the-body/story-fn8ljm6z-1226048335673#ixzz1LOHBGcOB

    Not that I care if they were or not, as this wasn’t a diplomatic mission. If we had launched missiles from drones they would be just as dead and a 12 year old is fully capable of pulling an AK-47 from under the sheets to kill U.S. troops. However, I believe if George Bush and Dick Cheney were pictured in the situation room watching the raid take place, the NY Times would be asking this question right now.

  7. jwest says:

    MSNBC just reporting that they didn’t kill the kids.