4 May 2011

US contradicts first account of bin Laden killing

5:33 pm on 4 May 2011

The United States has contradicted its intial account of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

President Barack Obama announced on Sunday local time that the man belived responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the US was dead.

The White House now says the al Qaeda leader was not armed when US special forces stormed at a compound in the city of Abbottabad, but many others around him had guns.

A spokesperson for the US president, Jay Carney, says bin Laden resisted efforts to capture him alive - but did not explain how he did so without a weapon.

Officials also now say that bin Laden's wife survived the attack with a gunshot wound to her leg. They had previously claimed she was killed shielding her husband from the attack, but now say she rushed at an American attacker but was not armed.

Radio New Zealand's Washington correspondent Simon Marks says the White House is facing growing questions about why Osama bin Laden was not captured alive.

A day after US Homeland Security chief John Brennan claimed that bin Laden resisted arrest with a weapon and that his wife was killed in crossfire, White House officials are offering a very different take on events in Pakistan, our correspondent reports.

US officials are also stepping back from Monday's claim that President Barack Obama monitored the military assault minute by minute.

CIA director Leon Panetta now says that, for nearly 30 minutes, officials in Washington did not know exactly what was going on.

Our correspondent reports none of this is building confidence in the US claim that there was no choice but to kill bin Laden and hurriedly bury his body in the Arabian Sea following a Muslim funeral aboard an aircraft carrier.

Mr Panetta says there is no question that the US will ultimately release a photo showing bin Laden dead. However, the White House maintains that no decision has been made.