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Islamabad/Washington: In line with his will to prevent his capture, Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden might have been killed by one of his own guards during a raid by US forces near the garrison city of Abbottabad, a media report said on Tuesday.

US officials have said that the world's most wanted man was killed with one or two shots to the head when he resisted after American Special forces on Monday stormed a compound near Abbottabad where he was hiding.

However, an unnamed told the Dawn newspaper that mastermind of the most devastating attack on US soil "might have been killed by one of his own guards in line with his will to avert his capture".
 
"From the scene of the gun battle it doesn't look like he could have been killed at point blank range from such a close angle, while offering resistance," said the official who visited the scene of the assault soon after the departure of the US team from the compound in Thanda Choa or Bilal Town, a stone’s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy.

One of bin Laden's son, two couriers and a woman being used as a human shield were also killed in the pre-dawn raid, US officials said.

Details about the US raid on the large compound surrounded by unusually high walls are still emerging.

US helicopters were hovering over the area at around 12.30 am on Monday and it took the "US assault team of 25 Navy SEALs and CIA hit men" about 40 minutes to clear the area and take away bin Laden’s body, officials told the Dawn.

One of the two helicopters involved in the assault "went down during action" and an official who visited the scene said there was no evidence to suggest that it might have been hit by a rocket or shot from the ground.

"There was no evidence of the helicopter having been shot down. From the wreckage it appears to be more a case of a crash," he said.

A loud explosion heard during the gun battle might have been caused by the assault team destroying the helicopter, the official said.

Contrary to the US claim, the official said three of bin Laden's guards were killed.

The body of one guard, described as an Afghan or a tribesman, was lying in the compound. The bodies of two guards were found in the living quarters.

The US team took away only bin Laden’s body, leaving behind a number of women and children.

Bin Laden's two wives, both in their early 50s and one of them of Yemeni origin, were among those left behind.

A third woman, wounded in the attack, was taken to a military hospital.

The official said a total of nine boys and girls, aged between two and 12 years, were seized in the compound.

One was bin Laden's 11-year-old daughter, the official said.

The women and children are in the custody of Pakistani security agencies.

A senior security official said they would be interrogated.

"We would want to know the whole story. How and when did the entire band come to this part of the region? Where was bin Laden all these years? And was he actually there when the assault took place? There are a whole set of questions which need to be answered," the security official said.

"One of the women who spoke a smattering of English said they had moved to the compound a few months ago.

But we would want to know how did they come to this place," he said.

The compound was known to local residents as Waziristan Haveli as it was believed to be owned by a man from the Waziristan tribal region.

Local resident Jehanzeb Jadoon said "nobody had a clue to the presence of Osama and his family" in the compound.

The compound's walls, which were 15 to 20 foot high and were topped with barbed wire, were unusual for a place like Abbottabad, an unnamed official said.

Another security official said the Waziristani man's connection could provide clues as to how the bin Ladens managed to travel to Abbottabad.
 
Security agencies have launched a search for the Waziristani owner of the compound, which was built five years go.

An official acknowledged that the compound might have been built close to a high security zone to protect it from prying eyes of foreign intelligence operatives, electronic surveillance and predator drones.

US was set to capture Laden alive

The US special forces were ready to capture Osama bin Laden alive, but following his resistance and use of a woman as shield forced them to kill the al Qaeda leader, the White House said.

"If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that. We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the White House and with the (US) President," John Brennan, National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland, told reporters at White House.

"He was engaged, and he was killed in the process. But if we had the opportunity to take him alive, we would have done that," he said.

Burial at sea best option
    
The White House also asserted that the burial at sea was the "best" option available to Osama bin Laden, killed by the US troops as it asserted his body was handled strictly in accordance with the Islamic practices.

"The burial of bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements," John Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, told reporters at the White House.

"We early on made provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance," he said.

Earlier, a senior Defense official said the religious rites were conducted for the deceased on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, which is located in the North Arabian Sea.

"Preparations for at-sea burial began at 1:10 am Eastern Standard Time and were completed at 2:00 am Eastern Standard Time," he said.

Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed. Osama's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet.

"The body was placed in a weighted bag, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased body eased into the sea," the official said.

Brennan asserted burials at sea take place on a regular basis.

Pakistan under fire

Pakistan faced intense scrutiny in Washington on Monday after US forces killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad, but President Barack Obama stopped short of public criticism that could further escalate tensions.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani also lobbied with the US and Britain for putting a positive spin on the killing of Osama bin Laden by American forces in Pakistan, saying his country will continue to support efforts to eliminate terrorism.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers demanded to know how the world's most wanted man could have resided -- apparently for years -- in a comfortable home in Abbottabad, a hillside retreat close to Islamabad popular with retired Pakistani generals.

Pakistan will need to "prove to us that they didn't know that bin Laden was there," said Senator Joe Lieberman, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, predicting "real pressure" on Islamabad.

(Agencies)