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— File Photo

WASHINGTON: The American commandos who killed Osama bin Laden were prepared to surrender if surrounded by Pakistani troops, says the man who killed the al Qaeda leader.

The Obama administration also saw this as a real possibility and was ready to send Vice President Joe Biden to negotiate their release, the shooter adds.

In an interview to the Esquire magazine, the shooter says he feels betrayed by the US government as he has “no pension, no health care and protection”. The interview will be published in the magazine’s March issue.

The shooter, whose name was not disclosed, was a member of the US Navy SEAL Team 6, which raided Bin Laden’s compound on May 1, 2011, and killed the world’s most wanted man. He retired in September, is unemployed since then and continues to worry how he is going to provide for his family.

While planning their raid on Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, the Team 6 also discussed what would happen if they were surrounded by Pakistani troops.

“We would surrender. The original plan was to have Vice President Biden fly to Islamabad and negotiate our release with Pakistan’s president,” says the shooter.

“This is hearsay, but I understand President Obama said, ‘Hell no. My guys are not surrendering. What do we need to rain hell on the Pakistani military?’ ”

The commandos were also told that “we’d be scrambling jets on the border” to back up the raiding party.

“That was the one time in my life I was thinking, I am … voting for this guy (President Obama). I had a picture of him lying in bed at night,” says the shooter.

The `shooter’, as he is referred to in the interview as well, retired after 16 years, four short of the required service length for qualifying for a pension. He is also having trouble finding work because he cannot list his true credentials.

The Esquire interview goes into detail about the night the `shooter’ killed Bin Laden, as well as his life before and after military service.

Since Abbottabad, the shooter and his family have feared a retaliatory attack by terrorists.

He has trained his children to hide in their bathtub at the first sign of a problem as the safest, most fortified place in their house. His wife also knows how to use a shotgun and keeps a knife on the dresser should she need a backup. The family also keeps bags of clothes, food, and other provisions for two weeks in hiding.

“Personally, I feel more threatened by a potential retaliatory terror attack on our community than I did eight years ago,” when her husband joined Team 6, says his wife.

When the White House identified SEAL Team 6 as those responsible, camera crews swarmed into their Virginia Beach neighbourhood, taking shots of the SEALs’ homes.

After Bin Laden's face appeared on their TV in the days after the killing, the shooter cautioned his older child not to mention the al Qaeda leader’s name ever again to anybody.

The wife could not take the pressure so they officially separated, although she still lives in the same house as she cannot afford to rent or buy another.

The Esquire points out that this is “a common occurrence in SEAL Team 6”.

“We're actually looking into changing my name, changing the kids’ names, taking my husband's name off the house, paying off our cars. Essentially deleting him from our lives, but for safety reasons. We still love each other,” the wife tells the magazine.

When the family asked about any kind of government protection should the shooter's name come out, they were advised that they could go into a witness-protection-like programme.

The SEAL command told the shooter `they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee” under an assumed identity. Like Mafia snitches, they would not be able to contact their families or friends. “We'd lose everything.”

The shooter recalls that when the Team 6 arrived in Afghanistan, they were asked to write letters to their families which would be delivered to them only if they were killed.

“The tears are hitting the page, because we all knew that none of us were coming back alive. It was either death or a Pakistani prison, where we’d be raped for the rest of our lives,” says the shooter while describing how he felt.

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