Obama: bin Laden raid was the longest 40 minutes of my life

President Obama Photo: White House

At 3:30am on Wednesday morning exactly one year will have passed since President Obama announced to the world that Osama bin Laden was dead.

The announcement followed a daring cross-border raid on bin Laden's safe house in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad.

Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and a terrorist who is responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent of men, women and children.

– President Obama's message reporting the death of Osama bin laden

The defining image of the event was a photograph taken during the raid from inside a situation room in the White House. President Obama is seen surrounded by his national security team and all are watching the mission unfold in real-time on a television screen.

President Obama and team in the situation room Credit: White House

It was the first time the world had seen a photograph from inside one of the top secret situation rooms. But now the White House has gone a step further by giving an NBC news team unprecedented access to the situation room where the drama unfolded.

NBC's Brian Williams interviewed President Obama and many of the other figures in the room including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former military head, Admiral Mike Mullen.

Their programme, 'Inside the Situation Room', airs in the US on Wednesday, but ITV News has been given this preview:

Years of intelligence work and months pursuing a particular lead eventually led the CIA to a courier with links to bin Laden and to a high-walled compound in Abbottabad.

A team of Navy SEALS - an elite unit of the US military - carried out the mission after flying into the country under nightfall in stealth helicopters designed to avoid detection.

The raid almost ended in disaster after one of the helicopters suffered a mechanical failure and had to be destroyed. Osama bin Laden was shot in the head and chest after refusing to surrender.

From landing to take off, the whole raid took just 40 minutes. President Obama admitted in the NBC interview that they were the "longest 40 minutes of his life".

The compound in Abbottobad where Osama bin Laden was found and killed Credit: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

ITV News' Washington Correspondent Robert Moore reported that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has 'ridiculed' President Obama's decision to authorise the attack on Bin Laden.

In the NBC interview, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that President Obama was "incredibly calm and collected" by the time of the raid, after every details had been checked and re-checked.

She continued:

It wasn't so much a 'high-five' moment as a kind of looking around and just feeling together, as almost one body, that 'okay, it's over'.

– us secretary of state hillary clinton