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US considers releasing photos, video of bin Laden

Posted May 3, 2011

— Still-secret photos of the dead Osama bin Laden show a precision kill shot above his left eye, a U.S. official said, as fresh details emerged of an audacious American raid that netted potentially crucial al-Qaida records as well as the body of the global terrorist leader.

The administration was weighing whether to release photos of bin Laden's corpse and video of his swift burial at sea. Officials were reluctant to inflame Islamic sentiment by showing graphic images of the body. But they were also eager to address the mythology already building in Pakistan and beyond that bin Laden was somehow still alive.

U.S. officials say the photographic evidence shows bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away part of his skull. He was also shot in the chest, they said.

Patience and persistence – characteristics normally attributed to al-Qaida – proved decisive in America's decade-long hunt for bin Laden, whose fate was sealed in 40 minutes of thunderous violence, years in the making.

President Barack Obama is going to ground zero in New York to mark the milestone and remember the dead of 9/11.

According to the U.S. account, the assault team came away with hard drives, DVDs, documents and more that might tip U.S. intelligence to al-Qaida's operational details and perhaps lead the manhunt to the presumed next-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri. The CIA is already going over the material.

Obama, who approved the extraordinarily risky operation by Navy SEALs against bin Laden's Pakistan redoubt and witnessed its progression from the White House Situation Room, his face heavy with tension, reaped accolades from world leaders he'd kept in the dark as well as from political opponents at home.

Republican and Democratic leaders alike gave him a standing ovation at an evening White House meeting that was planned before the assault but became a celebration of it, and an occasion to step away from the fractious political climate. Obama plans to visit New York on Thursday.

"Last night's news unified our country," much as the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did, Republican House Speaker John Boehner said earlier in the day. Obama later appealed for that unity to take root as the U.S. presses the fight against a terrorist network that is still lethal — and now vowing vengeance.

The episode was an embarrassment, at best, for Pakistani authorities as bin Laden's presence was revealed in their midst. The stealth U.S. operation played out in a city with a strong Pakistani military presence and without notice from Washington.

Professor: Photos, burial at sea not necessarily at odds with Islam

Questions persisted in the administration and grew in Congress about whether some elements of Pakistan's security apparatus might have been in collusion with al-Qaida in letting bin Laden hide in Abbottabad.

In an essay published Monday by The Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country's security forces may have sheltered Osama bin Laden, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint bin Laden.

As Americans rejoiced, they worried, too, that terrorists would be newly motivated to lash out. In their wounded rage, al-Qaida ideologues fed that concern. "By God, we will avenge the killing of the Sheik of Islam," one prominent al-Qaida commentator vowed. "Those who wish that jihad has ended or weakened, I tell them: Let us wait a little bit."

In that vein, U.S. officials warned that bin Laden's death was likely to encourage attacks from "homegrown violent extremists" even if al-Qaida is not prepared to respond in a coordinated fashion now.

Bin Laden had lived at the fortified compound for six years, officials said, putting him far from the lawless and harsh Pakistani frontier where he had been assumed to be hiding out.

U.S. forces also found 23 children, nine women, a bin Laden courier who had unwittingly led the U.S. to its target, a son of bin Laden who was also slain, and more.

The only information about what occurred inside the compound has come from American officials, much of it provided under condition of anonymity.

They said SEALs dropped down ropes from helicopters, killed bin Laden aides and made their way to the main building. Obama and his national security team monitored the strike, watching and listening nervously and in near silence from the Situation Room as it all unfolded.

"The minutes passed like days," White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said.

U.S. officials said the information that ultimately led to bin Laden's capture originally came from detainees held in secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe. There, agency interrogators were told of an alias used by a courier whom bin Laden particularly trusted.

It took four long years to learn the man's real name, then years more before investigators got a big break in the case, these officials said. Sometime in mid-2010, the man was overheard using a phone by intelligence officials, who then were able to locate his residence — the specially constructed $1 million compound with walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire.

U.S. counterterrorism officials considered bombing the place, an option that was discarded by the White House as too risky, particularly if it turned out bin Laden was not there.

Instead, Obama signed an order on Friday for the team of SEALs to chopper onto the compound under the cover of darkness.

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, another al-Qaida facilitator 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.

Within 40 minutes, the operation was over, and the SEALs flew out — minus one helicopter, which had malfunctioned and had to be destroyed. Bin Laden's remains were flown to the USS Carl Vinson, then lowered into the North Arabian Sea.

Bin Laden's death came 15 years after he declared war on the United States. Al-Qaida was also blamed for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed 224 people and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.


AP writers Chris Brummitt in Islamabad and Darlene Superville, Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Erica Werner, Pauline Jelinek, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Eileen Sullivan and Calvin Woodward in Washington contributed to this story.


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  • Bimmers Rock May 5, 2011

    I can't believe our military had to give Osama a proper burial!!!!!!

  • renaissancemon May 5, 2011

    > Are there people who actually think bin Laden wasn't behind the 9/11 attacks

    Are there people who actually think the president should be allowed to kill anyone he wants?

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    bettyboopr2 - I meant psychiatric!

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    Really????????? Wake up people, you are going to honestly say that since UBL is dead you are going to vote for Obama? God help us all......bettyboopr2

    Sounds like a little paychiatric help wouldn't hurt either.

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    Lies, lies, and more lies. How does this administration resurrect an already dead man to kill him. Can't be done unless you lie, lie, and lie.......tbajr

    Didn't anyone ever tell you to just say NO? Alcohol and drugs just don't mix.

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    It speaks volumes when Obama's greatest accomplishment is actually due to Bush's policies. Thank you, Mr. President for sticking to George W Bush's Policies. These policies really worked!......Proud Black Conservative

    We love you Michael Steele, Jr. and we all know how that turned out.

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    time for the conspiracy theorist to come out...birthers have a new attack point....the photos will be released in August/September (just as the birth certificate was released (long form) in the election year), this will remind voters Obama planned the attack that killed Bin Laden, not the Republicans and he really is dead...and we should just trust him....but hey, go ahead...play right into their hands, logic or reasoning never got in your way before.....voiceofreason32

    Nor common sense yours.

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    This just in... Birthers are now requesting copies of Osama Bin Laden's birth certificate to make sure he was qualified to have lead Al Qaeda before his death......kenshi

    Only Donald Trump knows for sure.

  • NCSU2311 May 3, 2011

    ... You haven't seen deranged yet. Just wait until people are fighting for food and gas. Are you ready for that, you ready to stand in a bread line? That is when you will see deranged.
    May 3, 2011 4:23 p.m.
    Report abuse

    I just bought a new house. My savings are higher than ever. My 401K is going back up after that 70% hit under Bush. Imagine if he would of got a hold of Social Security too!! My paycheck is higher than ever. My car is as new as ever 9yes I traded in the Lexus). Why are you failing at life and why is it the gov's fault? i have to hear this. LOL

  • jbarron4950 May 3, 2011

    c'mon people. ger is right bless his/her little heart. We are making slow and steady progress...........right into the toilet!!...Imherewhereareyou

    Some of you are so full of it, that's probably where you belong. Just in case you fall in, be sure and write your weight on the wall so that we'll know how much to dip out.