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D2: More on Photos

May 3, 2011

US mulls release of bin Laden photos, video
‘We want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened’

WASHINGTON — Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him. But the mystique that surrounded the terrorist chieftain in life is persisting in death.

Was it really him? How do we know? Where are the pictures?

Already, those questions are spreading in Pakistan and surely beyond. In the absence of photos and with his body given up to the sea, many people do not believe bin Laden — the Great Emir to some, the fabled escape artist of the Tora Bora mountains to foe and friend alike — is really dead.

U.S. officials are balancing that skepticism with the sensitivities that might be inflamed by showing images they say they have of the dead al-Qaida leader and video of his burial at sea. Still, it appeared likely that photographic evidence would be produced.

“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that nobody has any basis to try to deny that we got Osama bin Laden,” John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said Monday. He said the U.S. will “share what we can because we want to make sure that not only the American people but the world understand exactly what happened.”

U.S. officials say the still-secret photographic evidence shows a precision kill shot above his left eye, which blew away part of his skull. He was also shot in the chest, they said.

PhotoBlog: Bin Laden ‘death photo’ a fake?

In July 2003, the U.S. took heat but also quieted most conspiracy theorists by releasing graphic photos of the corpses of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s two powerful sons to prove American forces had killed them.

So far, the U.S. has cited evidence that satisfied the Navy SEAL force, and at least most of the world, that they had the right man in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

The helicopter-borne raiding squad that swarmed the luxury compound identified bin Laden by appearance. A woman in the compound who was identified as his wife was said to have called out bin Laden’s name in the melee.

Officials produced a quick DNA match from his remains that they said established bin Laden’s identity, even absent the other techniques, with 99.9 percent certainty. U.S. officials also said bin Laden was identified through photo comparisons and other methods.

Story: DNA confirms bin Laden death
Tellingly, an al-Qaida spokesman, in vowing vengeance against America, called him a martyr, offering no challenge to the U.S. account of his death.

The burial from an aircraft carrier in the North Arabian Sea was videotaped aboard the ship, according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a decision on whether to release the video was not final. The official said it was highly likely that the video, along with photographs of bin Laden’s body, would be made public in coming days.

Story: Video of bin Laden’s sea burial to be released?
The U.S. military said preparations for the al-Qaida leader’s burial lasted nearly an hour.

His body was washed before being covered in a white sheet and religious remarks translated into Arabic by a native speaker were read over bin Laden’s corpse.

“The burial of bin Laden’s remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices,” said Brennan.

Washington said bin Laden was buried at sea after U.S. forces killed him at a compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad because it was the best option, given tight time constraints. Under Islamic tradition Muslims need to be buried within 24 hours. Transferring the body to another country for interment could have taken too long, officials said.

Swift burial
The body was transported to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which brought him to his final resting place somewhere in the sea.

Preparations for burial began at 1:10 a.m. ET and were completed at 2 a.m. ET. His corpse was lowered toward the sea on one of the aircraft carrier’s elevators.

“The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker,” a U.S. official said.

“After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body eased into the sea.”

Video: Bin Laden buried at sea (on this page)
The swiftness of the burial may have raised suspicions but was in accordance with Islamic traditions. Islamic scholars, however, challenged U.S. assertions that a burial at sea was an appropriate fate for a Muslim who had died on land.

The act denied al-Qaida any sort of burial shrine for their slain leader. Once again, bin Laden had vanished, but this time at the hands of the United States and in a way that ensures he is gone forever.

In addition to bin Laden, one of his sons, Khalid, was killed in the raid, Brennan said. Bin Laden’s wife was shot in the calf but survived, a U.S. official said. Also killed were the courier and his brother, and an unidentified woman, officials said.

Some people found at the compound were left behind when the SEALs withdrew and were turned over to Pakistani authorities who quickly took over control of the site, officials said. They identified the trusted courier as Kuwaiti-born Sheikh Abu Ahmed, who had been known under the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.

Twenty-three children and nine women were in the compound at the time of the assault and were turned over to Pakistani authorities, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss an intelligence matter.

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