Sunday 11 December 2016

Shot, bloodied corpse picture of Osama bin Laden – decision to be made today

Gordon Rayner, Toby Harnden and Tom Brady and independent.ie reporters

Published 04/05/2011 | 09:44

A decision on whether or not to release death pictures of Osama bin Laden will be made today, according to senior White House sources.

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The advantage of releasing them will be to provide final proof that he is dead, but Obama administration officials fear they could inflame protestors in the Arab world.

The White House and the CIA were at odds today over the release of a picture of the corpse of Osama bin Laden as pressure grew on President Obama over inaccuracies in initial reports.

CIA director Leon Panetta said that there was "no question" that an image would be released at some point, but White House spokesman Jay Carney said that matter was still under consideration and described the photograph as 'gruesome'.

"The bottom line is that, you know, we got bin Laden and I think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him," Panetta said in an interview with MSNBC Nightly News.

When asked about the remarks, a White House spokesman said no decision had been made about releasing images of bin Laden dead.

U.S. officials say the still-secret photographic evidence shows a precision kill shot above his left eye, which blew away part of bin Laden’s skull. He was also shot in the chest. But the White House said the photograph of a dead Osama bin Laden is "gruesome" and that "it could be inflammatory" if released.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the White House is deciding whether to make the photo public, but he said officials are concerned about the "sensitivity" of doing so. Carney said there is a discussion internally about the most appropriate way to handle but "there is not some roiling debate here about this."

Panetta said the photos leave no question that bin Laden was killed. "Obviously I've seen those photographs," he said. "We've analyzed them and there's no question that it's bin Laden."

The issue of what to do with the "death photos" of bin Laden has been debated over the past several months, as officials planned the raid on the terror chief's Pakistan compound, it emerged today.

"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, Obama's counterterrorism adviser, said. 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."

In July 2003, the U.S. released graphic photos of the corpses of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's two powerful sons to prove American forces had killed them.

The US last night claimed its special forces had tried to take Osama bin Laden alive -- but then admitted the al-Qa'ida leader was unarmed when he was shot dead in the dramatic raid.

Conflicting reports from the US deepened the mystery surrounding the shooting as the West went on high alert for revenge attacks.

Carney insisted the US Navy Seal commandos had been prepared to take Bin Laden alive, yet claimed he had been "resisting" when he was shot dead.

Claims that the al-Qa'ida leader had died while firing an automatic weapon at commandos were withdrawn, as US President Barack Obama's spokesman admitted "he was unarmed".

The new revelations were made after Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the White House to make public the "precise facts surrounding his killing" to ensure it adhered to international law.

By contradicting previous official statements, and admitting Bin Laden was unarmed, Mr Carney appeared to undermine the White House's claims that the commandos had been told to capture him alive if possible.

Mr Carney said: "In the room with Bin Laden a woman -- Bin Laden's wife -- rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

A dramatic description of Bin Laden using his wife as a "human shield" and forcing her to sacrifice her life was also false. The woman is still alive and was taken into custody together with several of the terrorist's children.

The embarrassing climbdown left the US open to accusations of a cover-up, and sparked calls for video footage of the raid and images of Bin Laden's body to be released to kill off conspiracy theories.

Mr Carney spoke of how the US team had faced consistent resistance "from the moment they landed to the end of the operation".

"We were prepared to capture him (Bin Laden) if that was possible. We expected a great deal of resistance and were met with a great deal of resistance," he said.

Firefight

"There were many other people who were armed in the compound. There was a firefight -- it was a highly volatile firefight.

"He resisted. The US personnel on the ground handled themselves with the utmost professionalism. He was killed in an operation because of the resistance that they met."

As he spoke, fears of reprisals heightened as five men were arrested for allegedly taking pictures outside the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. They were being questioned by British anti-terrorism officers last night.

The men, all aged in their 20s and from London, were stopped close to the Cumbria plant on Monday afternoon, just hours after the death of the al-Qa'ida leader was announced.

And a major re-assessment of security planning for the visits of Queen Elizabeth and Mr Obama has been carried out by security chiefs in the wake of Bin Laden's death.

Senior garda officers were in close contact throughout the day with the US Secret Service and the British security services as a high terror alert was introduced globally.

Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban issued a statement in which they said the US "lacks strong evidence to prove its claim" that Bin Laden was dead.

Pakistan also made a series of extraordinary claims about the compound where Bin Laden was found, including a suggestion that their own soldiers had raided the same building in 2003.

Meanwhile, Kathryn Bigelow, the award-winning Hollywood director, was already working on a film about a failed attempt to kill the al-Qaeda leader.

Ms Bigelow, who directed the Oscar winning film The Hurt-Locker, is now expected to re-write the script to take in the successful special forces operation in Pakistan. The provisional title for the film is “Kill bin Laden”, and it is likely to go into production this summer.

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