Osama bin Laden shooter goes public, may face prosecution

A highly decorated former Navy SEAL officer, Robert O'Neill, has gone public saying he was the man who shot Osama bin Laden, putting three shots into the head of the elusive al-Qaida chief during the top-secret 2011 raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

O'Neill, 38, is the Seal Team Six member who sent Osama to Paradise, according to SOFREP, a website dedicated to military news.

O'Neill, who grew up in a Montana mining town, is now facing possible legal action for giving out the tightly-held secret. He is expected to reveal himself during a two-part Fox News TV special next week.

O'Neill was one of 23 SEAL operatives who flew into the Pakistan garrison city of Abbottabad, a resort for Pakistan's wealthy citizens, on the night of 2 May, and was the last to see bin Laden alive.

It had previously been unclear precisely how the terrorist leader was killed and how many servicemen had been involved in his death.

O'Neill, who is married with children, was last year interviewed by Esquire magazine, which did not publish his name.

He spoke of how he joined the army at the age of 19 as a reaction to his then-girlfriend leaving him.

His exploits have already been portrayed on the big screen in the action flicks Zero Dark Thirty, Captain Phillips and Lone Survivor.

O'Neill served more than a dozen tours of duty in active combat, including Iraq and Afghanistan, undertaking 400 separate combat missions.

For his service he has been decorated 52 times, up to the level of senior chief petty officer before he left. He was awarded two Silver Stars - the military's third-highest honour - as well as four Bronze Stars.

It has been reported that his decision to speak out was prompted by losing some of his military benefits by quitting the SEALs after 16 years rather than completing a full 20 years of service.

He may be in violation of US codes and even face prosecution for revealing a national secret. A letter on 31 October from Admiral Brian Losey specified that the warning holds even after a mission is over, and it scolds those seeking public credit.

The admonition was seemingly directed both at Matt Bissonnette - who revealed his role in the 2011 bin Laden mission with "60 Minutes" - and at O'Neill at the centre of the upcoming Fox News documentary.