The story of the night of May 1, 2011, when US forces killed Osama bin Laden, has been told and retold many times. The US government, US Navy Seals and intelligence analysts have given varying accounts of how it unfolded.
Now, for the first time, we see the events of that night through the eyes of his fourth and youngest wife, Amal, who has spoken to Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy for their book "The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden" about the last few minutes of the 9/11 mastermind’s life.
In an excerpt published in The Sunday Times UK titled Watching Daddy Die, Amal bin Laden, the fourth and youngest wife of the man who was at the top of the US's most wanted list for over a decade, has recounted the story of the night he died at the hands of SEAL special forces.
Around 11pm, as Amal lay next to Bin Laden, she woke up to the sound of a helicopter. Due to an electricity shortage, the streets were dark but Amal said she saw shadows dancing in the windows.
The sounds must have been getting closer because they woke Bin Laden too and the first thing he panted was "Americans are coming”. Following a loud screeching sound, the entire house rocked. The pair got off the bed and crept towards the balcony. "It was a moonless night which made it difficult to see,” Amal said.
On the lawn, out of their sight, were two US military Black Hawks, and 24 SEALs were stealthily rushing over the lawn and towards the compound.
Bin Laden called out to his son who grabbed his AK-47 and came rushing to his father. Meanwhile Amal and Seham tried to comfort the other children who woke up frightened and crying.
Within seconds, there was a blast as the Seals blew off the gate of the house and entered.
"They want me, not you” shouted out Bin Laden, telling his family to go downstairs. But the oldest daughters, Mirium and Sumaiya hid on the balcony.
Bin Laden, Amal and their young son Hussein remained in the room, praying. "I realised someone from our inner circle had betrayed us,” said Amal. "It was clear, she thought. Their safe house was a death trap and someone had betrayed them.”
Meanwhile, the Seals blasted a locked door and entered the house before heading upwards. One of the force members spoke Arabic and knew what Khalid looked like. He called out to Khalid before shooting him.
Miriam and Sumaiya rushed towards the Seals but were thrown against the wall by the Arab speaking man.
When the Navy team entered the room, she tried to rush them, but was shot in the leg and passed out. When she came to, Bin Laden was already dead. A trembling Hussein, who had witnessed the killing of his father, sat by her side.
Amal woke to see what was happening but knew she had to play dead if she wanted to survive, so she closed her eyes and tried to slow her breathing.
Meanwhile, Amal saw little Hussein being grabbed by one of the Seals and water being thrown in his face, while Mirium and Sumaiya were grabbed and held over their father’s body, demanded to identify the man.
"My father,” Miriam murmured. "Osama bin Laden.”
Bin Laden’s wife Khairiah, who was in the hallway, was also grabbed by the Seal and asked to identify the body.
The Arabic speaking man then said, "Hey, dual confirmation, confirmed it with the kid and with the old lady”.
Bin Laden’s body was then dragged down the stairs by the special forces leaving his head to bump behind them. Khalid lay dead on the staircase and when his mother tried to kiss him, she was pulled away.
The Seals then transferred Bin Laden’s body into one helicopter and blew up the remaining Black Hawk.
Amal realized, she says, that "the end they had never dared to discuss had come and gone in minutes”.