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US special forces fired at Osama bin Laden as he stood in the hallway of his compound but missed, senior politicians have disclosed.

New details of the al-Qaeda leader’s final moments revealed that Navy Seals shot at him while he was in the doorway of his bedroom. He subsequently retreated back inside, a move that was assessed to be an “act of resistance”. He was shot twice in the head and once in the chest.

The new version of events during the raid was provided in intelligence briefings. Senator Saxby Chambliss, a member of the senate intelligence committee, said: “They blew the door open, and they looked down the hallway and he stuck his head out of the room that he was in, and saw them, and ducked back in. They fired a shot, and missed him the first time and then went to the room. And that’s when they killed him.

“What you have to remember is that this was pitch dark. When they got into the room with bin Laden, they already had to go through some other folks downstairs, two of whom they killed. And they were having to use explosives to blow doors open. By the time they got to him, they didn’t know what they would find.

“They did find an AK-47 and a pistol in bin Laden’s room. Whether he was making any move to get to that is not clear. But taking him down in pitch-dark conditions was the right thing to do.”

According to US officials, bin Laden’s decision to retreat into his room was critical. One said: “He was retreating. You don’t know why he’s retreating, what he’s doing when he goes back in there. Is he getting a weapon? Does he have a [suicide] vest?” Another source involved in the operation said that bin Laden appeared “scared and completely confused” in the moments before he was shot. He said: “When the Seals reached the third floor, after resistance and physical barricades, bin Laden did not immediately surrender. When someone like bin Laden who has said he wants to kill as many Americans as possible, doesn’t 150 per cent surrender, you have to assess it as a threat.”

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