When special operations forces closed in on Osama bin Laden at his compound in Pakistan, they found him in a room with two guns, one of which was an AK-47 assault rifle, two lawmakers and a U.S. government official told National Journal on Wednesday.
The administration has confirmed that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and killed on Sunday. But being in a room with weapons could bolster the administration’s claim that it was necessary to kill the terrorist leader.
“He was not armed. The administration has confirmed that. But there were weapons in the room,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who serves on both the House Armed Services and House Intelligence committees.
“He did not have his hands on a weapon,” Langevin added. The other lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said the presence of the two guns added to concerns that bin Laden was dangerous and would not surrender peacefully.
The government official confirmed that the weapons were an AK-47 and a pistol. The official said bin Laden was spotted coming out of the room where the guns were located and then ran back into that room.
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A 20-minute firefight occurred from the time that U.S. special operations forces flew into the compound on helicopters to the time bin Laden was killed, the official said.
“The first objective at the compound involved hostile fire from one of the facilitators living there. So it immediately became a hostile environment,” the official said. “Then you also had threatening moves and actions inside the larger home to include action on all three floors.”
“You had people lunging toward the [military team],” the official added. “You had guns present in the house. Given al-Qaida’s history, you’re concerned about suicide vests [and] bombs. The compound itself could have been rigged to explode.”
Another 20 minutes was spent collecting materials at the site, including “documents, storage devices, audio visual equipment, guns, [and] computers,” as well as getting those living at the compound who were still alive to safety, the official said.
The administration continued an intense slew of briefings for lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday about the circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s death. Despite the briefings, lawmakers still had many questions about what occurred at the compound in Abbottabad, just north of Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad.
While there has been much attention on whether the White House would release any photos of bin Laden’s body, some lawmakers want to see any video footage the administration might have of the assault on the compound and bin Laden’s death.
Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she has asked the administration to provide her committee any video recordings that it has.
Meanwhile, lawmakers said a bogus photograph of bin Laden’s body began circulating on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Feinstein said somebody took a picture of either bin Laden’s son or one of two couriers killed at the compound on Sunday and then doctored it to try to pass it off as the terrorist leader. The photo was circulating electronically, rather than as a physical print.
“To the best of my knowledge no [official] photo has been given out,” Feinstein said. “I think there’s money to be made and I think there’s skullduggery with some of this stuff.”
Senate Intelligence ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., added: “I was shown a photo by an individual that was represented to be a photo of bin Laden after he had been shot. It appeared to be an accurate photo. It was not the official photo. I have not seen an official photograph of him.”
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