A new first-person account of the U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden says the al-Qaida leader was unarmed and shot in a doorway, a description dissimilar from the official version of what happened last year in Pakistan.
The Obama administration has maintained that members of the elite U.S. Navy SEALs force confronted bin Laden in his bedroom last May and killed him with a shot to the chest and another above the left eye after assuming that he was reaching for a weapon.
But according to the upcoming book "No Easy Day," written by a 36-year-old ex-SEAL who took part in the raid, his team first shot bin Laden, even though they could not tell whether he was armed, after seeing him peer out into the hallway as they moved toward the room.
The author, writing under the pseudonym Mark Owen, says they entered the room after shooting the al-Qaida leader and found him twitching on the floor in a pool of blood with two women wailing over his body.
Owen writes that they then moved the women out of the way and shot bin Laden several times in the chest until he was motionless. The SEALs later found two unloaded weapons — an AK-47 rifle and a Makarov pistol — in the bedroom.
The book was scheduled to be released on September 11, the anniversary of the al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, But after some members of the media reported on advance copies they had obtained, Owen's publisher moved the release to September 4.
The White House and a spokesman for the National Security Council both have refused to comment on apparent contradictions between the book's version of events and the official record.
U.S. defense officials did not clear the book in advance, which opens the possibility that Owen could face criminal prosecution. The Pentagon is investigating to determine whether the author divulged any secret information.
In addition to the controversy over whether Owen compromised national security, some U.S. media organizations have revealed his true identity. Since then, he has faced death threats posted online.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.