This time, he’s telling the tale in a new book.
In “The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Bin Laden,” the former Navy SEAL Team 6 shooter lays out in detail what went down that night inside the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
While controversy still swirls around O’Neill’s version of the May 2, 2011, raid, much of it centers on his breaking the Special Ops code of silence.
But he remains unequivocal in his colorful telling — while kicking the military hornets’ nest once again.
His book comes five years after “No Easy Day,” fellow SEAL Mark Bissonnette’s account of the operation. He agreed to surrender the $6.8 million in proceeds from the book for his use of classified information and violation of a non-disclosure deal.
In O’Neill’s version, he was trailing five or six other SEALs climbing the stairs to the compound’s second floor when when bin Laden’s son Khalid appeared on the half-landing with an AK-47.
A CIA analyst had informed the fighters, “If you find Khalid, Osama’s on the next floor.”
And she provided a phrase now uttered in Arabic and Urdu as the son cowered behind a bannister: “Khalid, come here.”
The confused terrorist poked his head out and shouted “What?”
He was shot in the face.
Once upstairs, the men spread out to search the rooms. In the compound with bin Laden were three of his four wives and 17 children.
The point man kept his weapon trained on the third floor, at one point taking a shot at a figure briefly appearing behind a curtain to the entryway.
O’Neill kept his hand on the point man’s shoulder. The two were alone on the stairway, convinced that whoever was on the third floor was strapping on a suicide vest for an explosive last stand.
The point man finally spoke: “Hey, we got to go, we got to go.”
O’Neill recounts the single thought that instantly filled his head: “I’m f—–g done with waiting for it to happen.” He squeezed the point man’s shoulder, the signal to charge – and then burst past the curtain.
The point man tackled two screaming women to the floor. If they were wearing suicide vests, his body would have absorbed the blast — giving O’Neill his shot.
Bin Laden stood near the bed, his hands on the shoulders of the woman in front of him. She was later identified as Amal, the youngest of his four wives.
According to O’Neill, she was the figure behind the curtain. It turned out that she took the point man’s bullet to the calf while acting as a human shield for her spouse.
Now it was O’Neill’s turn.
“In less than a second, I aimed above the woman’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger twice,” he writes. “Bin Laden’s head split open, and he dropped.
“I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”
According to O’Neill, the other members of the team rushed into the room only after he placed a 2-year-old boy found cowering in a corner alongside bin Laden’s widow on the bed.
“What do we do know?” asked O’Neill, whose mind had gone blank after pulling the trigger.
One of his U.S. comrades laughed. “Now we go find the computers,” he responded.
“Yeah, you’re right,” said O’Neill. “I’m back. Holy s—.”
And the soldier replied, “Yeah, you just killed Osama bin Laden.”
A harrowing 90-minute flight returned the squadron to camp in Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s shattered head was pressed back together to take identifying photos at the scene.
Now the corpse was laid out in an open body bag. The point man and O’Neill walked the CIA analyst over to take a look.
“Stone-cold, stone-faced, she said, ‘Uh, I guess I’m out of a f—–g job,’” he recalled. “Then she walked away.”
The killing took place a long way from his childhood in Butte, Mont., before he spent a decade in the Navy and eventually became an elite SEAL killer.
His first kill came in 2006 as part of a strike team charged with flushing out the network harboring Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda leader in far western Iraq.
One year earlier, al-Zarqawi masterminded the bombing of three hotels in Amman, Jordan, frequented by Western diplomats. The death toll was 60 with 115 wounded.
O’Neill’s five-man team included Jonny Savio (a pseudonym). Three years later, the sniper took out the Somali pirate holding Capt. Richard Phillips hostage aboard the merchant ship, Maersk Alabama.
Inside Building 1-1, the raid took on the feel of a funhouse horror show when a man with an AK-47 suddenly popped out of a doorway.
O’Neill learned in that moment he was fearless in a gunfight.
“The combination of adrenaline, muscle memory, and super-human focus leaves no psychic room for fear,” he writes. “My only emotion in the actual moment was … curiosity.”
The team’s biggest, toughest guy took down the enemy soldier with a bullet to the face. A British transfer, identified only as Andy, confirmed the kill.
The combat veteran looked down at the corpse to see a face split open “like a melon dropped on a cement floor.”
His casual comment signaled that combat was officially underway: “Oh, he’s f—-d, mates.”
Gunfire crackled and bullets whizzed over O’Neill’s head. He credits his survival to the lousy aim of his enemies.
“What I came to understand was that they believed that Allah would guide their bullets. So why bother to aim?” he writes. “Their faith is probably a key reason I’m still in one piece.”
With the building cleared, O’Neill and Jonny moved into an alley where two more men with guns suddenly stepped into their path. The Americans fired simultaneously.
“S—, Jonny,” O’Neill recalls saying, “I just killed that guy.”
His first kill. The same was true for Jonny.
“It wasn’t like what you see in the movies,” he recalled. “Guys don’t fly through the air when you shoot them. They just collapse on themselves in awkward positions.”
Much as Osama bin Laden did when O’Neill opened fire on America’s most wanted terrorist.
The action came to a head at a mosque where the mujahedeen made their last stand. A U.S. Ranger, hauling a heavy rocket-launcher on his shoulder, fired three into the building.
The job was done after two, but the Ranger fired the third to lighten his load.
“When we got in there … bodies were flung everywhere, sliced and diced. It was pretty bad,” O’Neill recounts. “But the thing that haunted me wasn’t so much the gruesome sight — rather, it was sound, a sound like water pouring out of a spigot.
“It was blood flowing from a severed arm.”
Back at base, a remorseless O’Neill considered his initiation into the club of combat killers.
In his mind, he created an epitaph to an enemy responsible for a cult of death: “Enjoy paradise, gentleman.”
In 2009, O’Neill was on the mission that freed Capt. Phillips — and writes that he got a foretaste of the stigma accompanying a high-profile kill.
His buddy Savio had eyes on Ali Aden Elmi, the increasingly erratic Somali pirate holding an AK-47 on Phillips. Savio fired the fatal shot from the fantail from the U.S.S. Bainbridge with an OK from his commander.
The backbiting started immediately, according to O’Neill. Fellow SEALs turned on Savio, as the rumor flew he was going to be kicked out of a command for an unjustified shot taken too early.
“All of a sudden, people who weren’t quite ready to shoot got p-ssed at him,” O’Neill writes, drawing the comparison to the heat he would take within the ranks after he brought down bin Laden.
In the weeks after the bin Laden mission, word reached O’Neill that his brother SEALS were accusing him of bragging — even as congratulatory calls poured in from across the nation.
His bosses demanded to know who and how many others he told. O’Neill says he always gave them the same answer: No one.
The unrelenting attention led to his 2012 retirement after 400 missions and numerous decorations — including two Silver Stars and four Bronze Stars with Valor.
“I felt hugely uncomfortable in the spotlight,” he claims.
Nevertheless, O’Neill outed himself to a Washington paper in 2014 and launched a lucrative career for himself as a motivational speaker. Even when reportedly targeted by ISIS, O’Neill didn’t go into hiding.
“I’m confident this all happened for a reason,” he writes at the book’s close. “I’m committed to making the most of it.”