12 May 2011

Osama bin Laden killing: ‘ultimate act of national defence’

Osama bin Laden’s death was not an assassination, the US Attorney General tells Channel 4 News, as the CIA continues to sift through evidence from the al-Qaeda chief’s compound.

CIA officials are briefing that documents and files seized in the raid on Osama bin Laden‘s hideout show the al-Qaeda leader was helping to plan large scale attacks across America.

Bin Laden was killed on 2 May by US Navy Seals.

Some – including the UK’s Archbishop of Canterbury – have criticised the operation, saying that the killing of an unarmed man left them feeling “uncomfortable”.

But the US is remaining steadfastly behind the mission – and pledged on Thursday that it was not an assassination attempt.

Osama bin Laden killing 'not an assassination', says Attorney General

US Attorney General Eric Holder told Channel 4 News that there were plans in place to take bin Laden into custody if he had surrendered.

“It was a kill or capture operation,” he said.

“I personally thought that he was never going to be taken alive, our intelligence indicated that he had no desire to be taken alive. But had that possibility presented itself, we were prepared to take him into custody.”

He insisted the operation was not an assassination.

“I would certainly take great issue with the notion that this was an assassination. He was the head of a terrorist organisation that had killed thousands of people in the US and in the UK, a person who was sworn to do other acts and as we now see from the information we’ve been gleaning from the compound, he was intimately involved in other operations and other planning.

“This was an act of ultimate, I think, national defence.”


And the Attorney General also appeared to suggest that targetting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – who is currently battling with rebels in Libya as NATO leads an operation to protect civilians – in a similar way, was not out of the question.

He told Channel 4 News: “A lot depends on how he conducts himself, what he does with regard to the people who we are there to protect.

“He could take certain actions that might make his killing appropriate. It really will depend on what he does and what our ability is to analyse what he is doing.”