US U-turns on bin Laden human shield claim
Washington - The White House late on Monday rowed back on a claim made earlier that a wife of Osama bin Laden acted as a human shield in an unsuccessful bid to save the al-Qaeda leader's life.
Counter-terrorism official John Brennan had briefed reporters from information that was later updated as more people involved in the operation were interviewed, a senior White House official said.
Bin Laden, who was killed in a raid by US special forces, was with a woman who was wounded, while another woman was also killed in a different part of the house in crossfire, said the official.
The White House is balancing the demand to brief the media quickly while knowing that the fact pattern will get clearer over time, said the official.
Brennan said earlier on Monday that a female at the compound in Pakistan who "was, in fact, in the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield bin Laden from the incoming fire".
Pressed on reports the woman shot dead by Navy SEALs during a firefight at a compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan was one of bin Laden's four wives, Brennan told the White House briefing: "That's my understanding."
Brennan had said it was not entirely clear "whether or not bin Laden or the son or whatever put her there or she put herself there" or whether the Al-Qaeda chief himself fired rounds during the exchange.
Bin Laden was killed by a bullet to the head and senior US officials said two brothers believed to be his couriers and one of the al-Qaeda chief's adult sons also perished in the raid.