Friday 24 November 2017

American politicians to see Bin Laden pictures

Toby Harnden in Washington and Thomas Harding in London

US President Barack Obama is allowing members of Congress to view photographs of Osama bin Laden's corpse, even though he announced last week that no members of the public would be able to see them.

The move could open the floodgates to requests from relations of the al-Qa'ida leader's victims and increase the chances that the images will be leaked.

Members of the Senate's intelligence and armed services committees and the House of Representatives intelligence committee will be among those invited to a "viewing room" at the Central Intelligence Agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a member of the armed services committee, told 'Politico': "I've been so involved in all the post-9/11 activity here, I thought if they'd offer me this opportunity, I'm going to go out and look."

When asked if seeing the gruesome images would provide "closure" for him, he responded: "In a way."

Mr Lieberman is in favour of releasing the pictures publicly. Among those opposed is senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran, who will not take up the invitation to see them himself. "I've seen enough dead people," he said.


At least one member of Congress who did not want the world to look at the photographs has decided he will see them. A spokesman for Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat member of the House of Representatives for Maryland, said that he was "interested and wants to see them".

Last week, Mr Ruppersberger said releasing the pictures could stoke anger amongst Muslims.

"Why enrage the rest of the world who don't like us?" he said. "We don't want them to rally behind his death to hurt us again."

Mr Obama last week said that "we don't trot this stuff out as trophies". He added that it was "important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool".

Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, the organisation's offshoot in Yemen, has vowed to avenge Bin Laden's death at the hands of US Navy Seals in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the group's leader, said that "the ember of jihad is brighter" and that Americans were fools to think that "the matter will be over" because of the demise of the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

"What is coming is greater and worse," he said. "We promise Allah that we will remain firm in the covenant and that we will continue the march, and that the death of the sheikh will only increase our persistence to fight the Jews and the Americans in order to take revenge."

US officials said last night that a hand-written journal belonging to Bin Laden filled with planning ideas and details of operations was seized in the raid on his hideout.

The journal was part of a huge cache of files that included about 100 memory flash drives and five computers taken by the assault team. Bin Laden has long been known to record his thoughts and was thought to have kept a diary. His son has described his father as recording his thoughts and plans.

Gen David Richards, the head of Britain's Armed Forces, suggested that the death of al-Qa'ida's leader could weaken its ability to raise money.

Questioned by MPs in the defence committee about the impact of Bin Laden's death on al-Qa'ida and its ally the Taliban, he said: "They are a bit worried that their ability to raise money may have been affected and that's hugely important to them."

He said that it was too early to understand what impact Bin Laden's death would have on the Afghan campaign but that it would become clearer in the next six months.

Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president, warned that the US will be "a loser" if it alienates his country in the war against al-Qa'ida.

Mr Musharraf acknowledged that Pakistani intelligence might have helped Bin Laden hide in the country, but said it was a "rogue element".

He also denied reports that he had signed a deal with Washington a decade ago allowing US forces to conduct a unilateral raid in Pakistani territory to hunt down Bin Laden. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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