Bin Laden's AK-47 displayed in CIA museum

Bin Laden's AK-47 displayed in CIA museum
The CIA’s museum in Langley, Virginia, recently acquired a new artifact: the AK-47 of Osama bin Laden, a weapon that was found beside the former al-Qaeda leader’s dead body after he was killed by US Navy SEALs.

The museum contains gadgets, trophies, spyware and artifacts from the past 70 years, including pieces from World War II and the War on Terror. The museum is closed to the public, but NBC News became the first media organization permitted to bring video cameras into the facility.

The Russian AK-47 with counterfeit Chinese markings was recovered from the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was killed in a midnight raid, and recently put on display at the museum, according to the exclusive NBC report.

Museum Curator Toni Hiley said the Chinese markings remain a mystery, but a Central Intelligence Agency analyst has concluded that the weapon definitively belonged to bin Laden.

"This is the rifle that was recovered from the third floor of the Abbottabad compound by the assault team," Hiley said. "Because of its proximity to (bin Laden) there on the third floor in the compound, our analyst determined it to be his.  It's a Russian AK with counterfeit Chinese markings."

The CIA has not provided specific information on how the weapon was obtained or whether it was loaded when it was found. An anonymous source told NBC that it came from the “dark side” of the agency, referring to the operations staff that worked with the SEALS on the raid. The movie “Zero Dark Thirty” shows a member of the assault team taking the weapon from a shelf above bin Laden’s bed. But Hiley said she knows nothing aside from the fact that former CIA Director Leon Panetta requested it and that it is in good working condition. It is not the same weapon that bin Laden was carrying in his anti-American propaganda videos.  

Journalists stand outside a suspected former residence of Osama bin Laden in Haripur, some 50 kilometers from Islamabad on March 9, 2012, which is near Abbottabbad where Osama bin Laden was finally killed on May 2, 2011 by US Navy Seals in a nightime raid (AFP Photo)

"I wasn't there," said Hiley. "So I can't confirm or deny exactly where the weapon was.  I just know that I have it in my museum and I'm happy to have it."

In 2011, the Associated Press reported that American soldiers only found bin Laden’s guns after he was already dead and photographed, which added fuel for critics who accused the US of killing him while unarmed.

The Kalashnikov is mounted on pegs behind a glass case, identified by a plaque that reads, “Osama bin Laden’s AK-47.” It sits beside an al-Qaeda training manual found in Afghanistan, near a mock-up display of bin Laden’s compound.

The model of the Abbottabad compound closely resembles the facility as it was found when bin Laden was living in it.

"It's as accurate as those hundreds of pieces of intelligence would permit," Hiley said. "Not only are they looking at that intelligence, they're going to the analysts and asking them, 'Was the wire this far apart?' So they're trying to get absolutely every single bit of truth into this model because they know the model will be used."