About two dozen SEALs and CIA enablers swooped down on the compound in a pair of choppers, leaving the second pair lurking nearby in case they were needed.
The U.S. troops came under fire almost immediately, giving the U.S. forces all the justification they needed to amp up their firepower. Yet helicopters, as we saw in Black Hawk Down, are ungainly machines easily downed in a flurry of rocket-propelled grenades or even small-arms fire. That suggests that in addition to the choppers, heavier guns — perhaps AC-130 gunships or some other precision firepower — were on station early Monday over bin Laden’s lair and may have laid down some suppressive fire before U.S. troops went into the compound, most likely aboard specially-outfitted CH-47 and UH-60 choppers.
“After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound,” Nasir Khan of Abbottabad told Reuters. “Three helicopters were hovering overhead…All of a sudden there was firing toward the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash,” said Khan, who watched the scene from his roof nearby.
CIA director Leon Panetta and other top agency officials listened in from 7,000 miles away as the operation unfolded. Bin Laden was shot in the head when he fired at the SEALs.