Obama Refuses to Release Osama Death Photos

Kompas.com - 05/05/2011, 04:28 WIB
EditorJimmy Hitipeuw

KOMPAS.com - President Obama today decided not to release pictures of Bin Laden's corpse, saying 'we do not trot this stuff out as trophies'. The decision follows fierce debate among the President's senior advisers, many of whom had pushed for him to release the gruesome final shots of the al-Qaeda leader.

It was hoped that releasing the images would also put an end to any wild conspiracy theories that Bin Laden was still alive. But within minutes of the White house announcement, graphic photographs - claiming to images of the bodies of the three other men killed in Monday's raid - were made public today.

The photographs, released by Reuters news agency, show the graphic aftermath of the raid on Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound.

They were taken about an hour after the U.S. assault and show three dead men lying in pools of blood, but no weapons.

The photos, taken by a Pakistani security official who entered the compound after the early morning raid on Monday, show two men dressed in traditional Pakistani garb and one in a t-shirt, with blood streaming from their ears, noses and mouths.

None of the men looked like Bin Laden. Based on the time-stamps on the pictures, the earliest one was dated May 2, 2:30 am, approximately an hour after the completion of the raid in which Bin Laden was killed.

Other photos, taken hours later at between 5:21 a.m. and 6:43 a.m. show the outside of the trash-strewn compound and the wreckage of the helicopter the United States abandoned.

One photo shows a computer cable and what looks like a child's plastic green and orange water pistol lying under the right shoulder of one of the dead men. A large pool of blood has formed under his head.

A second shows another man with a streak of blood running from his nose across his right cheek and a large band of blood across his chest.

A third man, in a T-shirt, is on his back in a large pool of blood which appears to be from a head wound. MailOnline has chosen to pixellate the images.

Speaking about the photographs of Osama Bin Laden, White House sportsman Jay Carney said today: 'These are graphic pictures of someone who was shot in the head and it's not in our national security interests to allow these images, as in the past has been the case, to become icons to rally opinion against the U.S.

'He (Obama) held this opinion very firmly. The President never gets to make a decision that is 100 per cent obvious as those decisions never get to his desk.'

The U.S. went to 'extraordinary measures' to show respect to Bin Laden in his burial, Mr Carney said.

He added: 'There is no doubt question at all that Osama Bin Laden is dead. Americans feel a great sense of closure because of that.'

'This decision (not to release the photo) applies to all visual evidence.'

Mr Carney also added that U.S. forces had gone to 'considerable' efforts to give the al-Qaeda leader an appropriate Islamic burial.

'The respect that was show to him and his body were far greater than the respect Osama Bin Laden showed to any of the victims of 9/11.'

Mr Carney then quoted an interview President Obama gave to CBS today, saying: 'We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. We don’t need to spike the football.

'We're absolutely certain that this is him (Bin Laden). Certainly there's no doubt among Al Qaeda members that he is dead. You will not see Bin Laden walking on this earth again.'

Mr Carney said it's important the images are not 'floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.'

He added: 'That is not who we are.'

Earlier CIA Director Leon Panetta had said there has never been any doubt that ultimately a photograph of the Al Qaeda leader would be released to the public.

In the absence of a picture to show that Bin Laden is dead, some have claimed that the raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was fiction - and the world's most wanted man had not been killed.

But during an interview with CBS television's 60 Minutes, the President confirmed the pictures would remain secret.

Signalling that an intense internal debate was under way, the White House had insisted no decision had yet been taken and emphasised the graphic nature of the imagery.

'It's fair to say that it's a gruesome photograph,' said White House spokesman Jay Carney, appearing to refer to an image of Bin Laden taken shortly after a U.S. strike team killed him at his Pakistani compound.

'I'll be candid. There are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama Bin Laden.'

The disclosure of images would have provided further closure to Americans nearly a decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks that he masterminded.

It could also disprove those who doubt the death of Bin Laden, who was shot in the head and chest at a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

But critics had said such photos are distasteful and if the Obama administration releases them, they could offend Muslims and be exploited by extremists.

'What we don't want to do is to release anything that might be either misunderstood or that would cause other problems,' said President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, speaking on National Public Radio.

On Monday an obviously faked picture of his corpse spread round the world, giving conspiracy theorists new material to fuel their speculation.

As well as pictures of Bin Laden’s body – reportedly with a bullet hole above an eye, and another to the heart – the U.S. has video of both the raid and his burial at sea.

Last night CIA director Leon Panetta said that ‘ultimately’ a photograph of Bin Laden’s corpse will be released - although the President has contradicted him today.

Speaking on NBC Nightly News, he said: ‘The government obviously has been talking about how best to do this, but I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public.

‘Obviously I’ve seen those photographs. We’ve analysed them and there’s no question that it’s Bin Laden.

‘I think there’s no question that there were concerns that had to be debated about the impact these photos would have.

‘But the bottom line is that 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.’

Earlier White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the photo of Bin Laden’s corpse was ‘gruesome’ but said ‘it could be inflammatory’ if released. He said the President was mulling over whether to release the image but that there were concerns about the ‘sensitivity’ of doing so.

But the evidence so far suggests that even with a photograph of the corpse, conspiracy theories will continue. For just as in life Bin Laden was the terrorist who launched a thousand conspiracy theories, in death, it seems, he is no different.

Within hours of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001 it was being claimed the massacre was masterminded by the CIA, or the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and that thousands of Jews had been warned to stay off work on the day.

Others said Bin Laden was in a hospital under U.S. care when the attack took place. Senior military officials confirmed to CNN there were three sets of pictures of Bin Laden.

The first set was taken during the raid itself, and is thought to show two dead brothers, and Bin Laden's dead teenage son. The second, and most 'identifiable' set of pictures were taken of his mutilated body at an Afghan airbase.

These are the most troubling set of images as they show 'massive open head wounds' - but are the most clear pictures of Bin Laden's face. The third set were taken aboard the USS Carl Vinson, and show a washed and shrouded Bin Laden being lowered into his watery grave.

Yesterday Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said: ‘This news is only coming from one side, from Obama’s office, and America has not shown any evidence or proof to support this claim.

‘On the other side, our sources close to Osama Bin Laden have not confirmed or denied the news. Therefore the Islamic Emirate consider any assertion premature.’

However, shadowy Al Qaeda spokesmen usually regarded as reliable have effectively accepted that Bin Laden is dead by vowing vengeance and continuing war on the West.

The internet is abuzz with claims that Bin Laden died long ago – perhaps of liver or kidney failure, perhaps killed in the allied assault on the Afghan Tora Bora mountains in 2001, perhaps assassinated at some other time.

The argument goes that his body was kept hidden, and his death a secret, so that America could justify the continuation of the War on Terror, along with billions in military expenditure. Only now, some suggest, has America decided it is time to announce his death, along with an elaborate cover-story.

Some were even suggesting yesterday that the news was suddenly released to divert attention from evidence-less claims that Barack Obama was not born in America, so is not lawfully president.

Last night David Cameron said: ‘There are some conspiracy theorists who will never be satisfied. There are some people who still believe that Elvis will be found riding Shergar.’

Some Muslims yesterday disputed the U.S. claim that Bin Laden’s burial at sea was in accordance with Islamic tradition.

A U.S. government spokesman said it had been decided it would be difficult to find a country prepared to accept the body and then bury it within 24 hours of death as dictated by Islamic custom. But he said it had been instead respectfully interred in the waves of the Indian Ocean off Pakistan from the U.S. aircraft carrier the Carl Vinson.

Muslim scholars said that while sea burials have long been an occasional accepted necessity, there was no such need in this case.

The head of Egypt’s prestigious seat of Sunni Muslim learning, al-Azhar, said the sea burial ‘contradicts all the religious values and human norms’. The operation - code named 'Geronimo' - was watched by the President in real time from the helmet mounted camera of an elite Navy SEAL commando.

Although President Obama saw the terror chief killed by a single bullet to the head, it was only when he received the signal 'Geronino E-KIA' - which stands for 'Enemy Killed In Action'- that he knew Bin Laden was dead. It is understood Bin Laden, code named 'Jackpot', was unarmed but did 'resist'.

It had previously been claimed the terror chief also used a woman thought to be his wife as a human shield - but this has now been retracted by officials. According to reports Bin Laden's 12-year-old daughter was present when U.S. forces shot and killed her father.

Obama had earlier ruled out killing the terrorist with two air dropped bombs and an as yet undisclosed third option, in favour of the more risky raid which would provide DNA and bodily evidence Osama was dead. The SEAL team also used a facial recognition system to positively identify the body of Bin Laden.

The commander of the operation took a digital image of Bin Laden's remains and fed them back to the CIA, where a facial recognition system confirmed the identity. Bin Laden's widow, 27-year-old Amal Al-Sadah, who was shot in the leg, also helped to identify the body.

The U.S. military said that preparations for burying the terror leader in the sea lasted an hour. His body was washed aboard the USS Carl Vinson before being covered in a white sheet and religious remarks translated into Arabic by a native speaker were read over the corpse.

'The burial of Bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices,' said the White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan.

Preparations for burial began at 1:10 am EST (0510 GMT) on Monday and were completed at 2am EST. 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,' the 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.'

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