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Holder: Bin Laden raid was legal

Holder: Bin Laden raid was legal
Attorney General Eric Holder, pictured at a news conference in Washington April 4, 2011. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 12 (UPI) -- The raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan was a kill-or-capture mission, not an assassination, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.

If bin Laden had offered to surrender, the U.S. forces conducting the raid would have accepted, Holder said in an interview with the BBC published Thursday.

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Reiterating what he previously told Congress, Holder said the May 2 assault on the al-Qaida leader's hideout in Abbottabad was legal.

Holder told the BBC the U.S. forces acted "in an appropriate way" absent any clear indication bin Laden intended to surrender.

"If the possibility had existed, if there was the possibility of a feasible surrender, that would have occurred," he said. "But their protection, that is the protection of the force that went into that compound, was I think uppermost in our minds."

The attorney general said international law permits the targeting of enemy commanders.

"I actually think that the dotting of the i's and the crossing of the t's is what separates the United States, the United Kingdom [and] our allies from those who we are fighting," Holder said. "I think those Navy SEALs conducted themselves in a way that's consistent with American, [and] British values."

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A day earlier, Bin Laden's family questioned why he was not captured alive. Bin Laden's sons criticized the United States for carrying out an "arbitrary killing."

U.N. special rapporteurs Christof Heyns and Martin Scheinin said in a statement the use of deadly force is permitted as a last resort in extreme cases, the BBC reported.

"However, the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment," they said.

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