WASHINGTON - Osama bin Laden was shot above his left eye and the bullet blew away part of his skull, a U.S. official says. He was also shot in the chest.
The precision kill shot was delivered by a member of the Navy's elite SEAL Team Six during a pre-dawn raid Monday on bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
Photos of bin Laden's injuries were transmitted to Washington as proof that the mission was a success.
The administration is still weighing whether to release photos of bin Laden's corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also eager to address the mythology already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.
The only information about what occurred inside the compound has come from American officials, much of it provided under condition of anonymity.
They said SEALs dropped down ropes from helicopters, killed bin Laden aides and made their way to the main building. Mr. Obama and his national security team monitored the strike, watching and listening nervously and in near silence from the Situation Room as it all unfolded.
"The minutes passed like days," White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said.
As the information from the operation flowed in, the president said, "We got him."
The hunt for bin Laden that ended Monday morning in Pakistan began years ago, when captured al Qaeda operatives first revealed the existence of bin Laden's most trusted courier. Some of the leads to the courier came out of the CIA's secret prisons, where high level al Qaeda captives were waterboarded.
CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that the courier was described as a protege of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and the man who delivered bin Laden's orders to al Qaeda operatives in the field. In fact, current and former U.S. officials said that Mohammed gave intelligence officials the courier's name. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed's successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.
It was about four years ago that U.S. intelligence finally determined the courier's real name: Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan. Take a look at it. It cost bin Laden his life.
Key to the hunt was identifying the cell phone number of the courier and placing it under surveillance. In 2010, the U.S. intercepted a call to the courier in which he was asked where he had been. He responded that he was back with the people he had been with before. The caller then said, "May God facilitate you" - the implication being that courier was back with bin Laden and his family.
The courier did not make it easy to locate the compound, however, since every time he approached the compound, he turned off his phone. He did this more than 90 minutes out and removed the battery, so he went totally dark and would leave it off when he was in the compound. When he left the compound, he would wait 90 minutes and turn it back on. Analysts would therefore keep seeing this pop up in places all over Pakistan but nowhere near to Abbattabod. This is why it took so long to find the compound after they had the name and the cell phone number for the courier.
It took another two years after identifying the courier to find out what part of Pakistan Maulawi Jan operated in. Then, last August, the CIA discovered his residence. Officials said they were shocked by what they saw - the specially constructed $1 million compound with walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire.
The residents of the compound burned their trash instead of putting it out for collection and there was no telephone or internet service. Three families lived there: the courier's family, his brother's family, and a third family about the size of bin Laden's. It was a convincing but circumstantial case.
Once U.S. had located the compound where the courier lived, they put it under surveillance and noticed that every day a tall man emerged from the main house and walked for an hour around the courtyard. Imagery indicated that the man was between 5'8" and 6'5", but the photos were not good enough to make a positive identification. They were images from satellites and not drones, since location was too risky to deploy the unmanned aircraft.
By mid-February, intelligence from multiple sources was clear enough that Mr. Obama wanted to "pursue an aggressive course of action," a senior administration official said. Over the next two and a half months, Mr. Obama led five meetings of the National Security Council focused solely on whether bin Laden was in that compound and, if so, how to get him, the official said.
U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.
Instead, Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness.
In addition to bin Laden, one of his sons, Khalid, was killed in the raid, Brennan said. Bin Laden's wife was shot in the calf but survived, a U.S. official said. Also killed were the courier and his brother, and an unidentified woman, officials said.
Some people found at the compound were left behind when the SEALs withdrew and were turned over to Pakistani authorities who quickly took over control of the site, officials said. They identified the trusted courier as Kuwaiti-born Sheikh Abu Ahmed, who had been known under the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
Twenty-three children and nine women were in the compound at the time of the assault and were turned over to Pakistani authorities, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter.
Within 40 minutes, the operation was over, and the SEALs flew out minus one helicopter, which had malfunctioned and had to be destroyed. Bin Laden's remains were flown to the USS Carl Vinson, then lowered into the North Arabian Sea.
Bin Laden's death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al Qaeda was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.