The latest New Yorker fills in a lot of the blanks from the May 1 Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden.
Nicholas Schmidle’s 8,400-word report starts with a call for more intelligence on bin Laden’s possible hideout, then takes readers through planning and training for the raid and gives a riveting account of what happened inside the walled compound, including the crash of the first helicopter, which was supposed to send SEALs rappelling onto the house’s roof. The mishap prompted the second helicopter to land outside the compound.
“No American was yet inside the residential part of the compound. Mark and his team were inside a downed helicopter at one corner, while James and his team were at the opposite end. The teams had barely been on target for a minute, and the mission was already veering off course,” Schmidle writes.
But it didn’t faze the SEALs, who regrouped and proceeded inside.
When two of bin Laden’s wives tried to block the SEALs from reaching him, a SEAL shot one in the ankle, then tackled both in case they was wearing suicide bombs. “He would almost certainly have been killed had they blown themselves up,” Schmidle writes, “but by blanketing them he would have absorbed some of the blast and potentially saved the two SEALs behind him.”
Bin Laden then was shot and killed by one round to the chest and a second to the head.
There are good details about the assault, the subsequent intelligence gathering and the aftermath, including the role played by a Pakistani-American translator who stood outside the compound posing as a local police officer. When curious neighbors approached, he spoke to them in Pashto, instructing them to stay in their homes.
Read the whole thing here.