White House declines to release photo of dead bin Laden

Obama cites security reasons for withholding pictures: "We are certain that this was him, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again."

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
May 4, 2011 20:51
3 minute read.
Police stand near a wanted poster of bin Laden

Bin Laden wanted poster 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday he had decided not to release photos of the corpse of Osama bin Laden, despite calls for their publication and accusations that the al-Qaida leader was not really dead.

Obama cited national security concerns as chief among the reasons for his verdict on what has become a contentious issue in the wake of a US helicopter raid on bin Laden’s Pakistani compound on Sunday.

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“It is important for us to be 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,” Obama told CBS. “That’s not who we are.

We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.”

He added, “Given the graphic nature of these photos, it would create some national security risk.”

Families of the victims of al- Qaida’s terrorist attacks have been urging the release of the photos of bin Laden, whom US officials saw had been shot in the head, to provide a measure of closure. At the same time, al- Qaida sympathizers abroad have charged the US with orchestrating a conspiracy and are demanding further proof of bin Laden’s death.

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The White House said facial recognition and DNA testing had proved bin Laden’s identity, but that further details of those procedures would not be released. Bin Laden was buried at sea soon after his death, in accordance with the Muslim practice of burying the dead within 24 hours.

“We are absolutely certain that this was him,” Obama said. “There is no doubt among al-Qaida members that he is dead, so we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.

There are going to be some folks that deny it. The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”

The Obama administration also pushed back against charges that the country hadn’t followed the proper rules of engagement related to laws of war, as bin Laden was not holding a gun when he was shot.

The White House corrected earlier reports on Tuesday that he had been armed, but has continued to maintain that he resisted when confronted by the US Navy SEALs who took control of his hiding place early on Sunday.

“The operation was planned so that the team was prepared and had the means to take bin Laden into custody. There’s simply no question that this operation was lawful,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday, pointing to the roles played by bin Laden and al-Qaida in plotting mass terror attacks against Americans.

“The operation was conducted in a way to minimize – and avoid altogether – if possible, civilian casualties,” he added. “That was done at great risk to Americans.”

US Attorney-General Eric Holder made a similar point in testimony before Congress on Wednesday.

“It was justified as an act of national selfdefense,” Holder said. “If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that, and therefore his killing was appropriate.”

On Tuesday afternoon, the Obama administration condemned comments from Hamas criticizing the US for striking at bin Laden and referring to him as a martyr.

“They’re outrageous,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said of the comments.

“It goes without saying, bin Laden was a murderer and a terrorist. He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent men, women and children – and many of whom were Muslim.”

Toner continued by saying the al-Qaida leader was no martyr.

“He died hiding in a mansion or a compound far away from the violence that was carried out in his name. And his defeat is a victory for all human beings seeking to live in peace, security and dignity,” he said.

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