WASHINGTON (AFP) - A new version of the events surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden was unveiled on Wednesday sharply contradicting earlier claims by a Navy Seal who said he pulled the trigger.
Esquire magazine published a long interview in February with a man identified only as "the shooter" who said he had shot the Al-Qaeda leader twice in the head on the night of the May 1, 2011 raid on his Pakistan hideout.
The commando said he had been alone when he entered bin Laden's third floor room in his Abbottabad hideout. But CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, an Al-Qaeda expert, dismissed that account as completely false.
A SEAL Team 6 member interviewed by Bergen told him three Seals out of the 23-strong team were the first to make it to the top floor of the compound, including "the shooter" and "the point man." The third was Matt Bissonette, who published his No Easy Day book last year about the raid under the pen name Mark Owen.
According to Bergen, it was "the point man" who ran up the stairs and saw bin Laden poking his head around his bedroom door and shot him first, gravely wounding the Al-Qaeda leader.
The "point man" - who was not identified - then rushed two women in the room, fearing they might be wearing suicide vests packed with explosives "gathering them in his arms to absorb the explosion," Bergen writes.
Two more commandos then entered the room and shot the fallen bin Laden in the chest, killing him.
Other members of the Seal team 6 are said to have been angered by the Esquire article and are now in "serious lockdown" when it comes to "talking to anybody" about the raid.
And "the shooter" has reportedly been thrown off the team because he was "bragging about his role in the raid in bars around Virginia Beach, Virginia," where the Seal team is based, Bergen added.
However, the intense focus on the events led The Atlantic Wire to say that the official story on bin Laden's death has "given way to a stupid media feud." "This is all to say that the struggle to find out who shot Osama bin Laden is well beyond a simple fact-finding mission," said the website linked to The Atlantic magazine.
"It's instead turned into the stupid pissing match between multimillion-dollar media companies and gossipy, potentially disgruntled Navy Seals."