US won't show bin Laden photo

 

US president Barack Obama has decided not to release death photos of al-Qeada leader Osama bin Laden, he announced tonight, amid concerns that the gruesome image could prove inflammatory.

Releasing graphic images of bin Laden’s corpse after his shooting in a US raid on his compound in Pakistan could have dispelled doubts that bin Laden is indeed dead.

The worry, though, was that it would feed anti-US sentiment.

The president made his decision as the Navy Seals involved in the daring raid arrived in the US for debriefing, and US officials began to comb through the intelligence trove of computer files, flash drives, DVDs and documents that the commandos hauled out of the terrorist’s hideaway.

The CIA has set up a task force to review the material from the highest level of al-Qaeda’s leadership.

Mr Obama announced his decision to hold back releasing a photo of bin Laden’s body in an interview with CBS television’s 60 Minutes programme.

He is preparing to visit New York City’s ground zero later today to mark the end to one of history’s most intense manhunts and to remember anew the victims of the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks at the hands of bin Laden’s organisation.

Earlier US attorney general Eric Holder insisted earlier bin Laden made no attempt to surrender before being killed in Pakistan.

The White House said last night that bin Laden was unarmed when US special forces shot him, revising its previous account of the killing of bin Laden, who was shot in an attack on a sprawling compound near a military academy in the town of Abbottabad, 60km from the capital Islamabad.

"It was justified as an act of national self-defence," Mr Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee today, citing bin Laden's admission of being involved in the September 11th, 2001 attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"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," he said.

In Washington, questions raged about whether Pakistan was complicit in protecting the mastermind of those attack.

But Pakistan stepped up its attempt to convince the world that it didn’t know where bin Laden was hiding. They maintain that the al-Qaeda leader’s ability to hide in Abbottabad, an army town just two hours drive from the capital, was the result of government oversight, not double dealing.

During a trip to France today Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that anyone who claimed his country hid bin Laden was “colour blind”.

Mr Gilani said that Pakistan shared intelligence with numerous countries in the fight against terrorism and had “excellent co-operation” with the United States. He said that “if we have failed, it means everybody failed”, and an investigation would be ordered.

Islamabad is facing questions about how the world's most-wanted man was able to live for years in the military garrison town. Pakistan's government denies harbouring the terrorist leader.

Arab-language TV news channel Al Arabiya quoted senior Pakistani security officials today as saying bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter told them her father was captured alive and shot dead by US troops during the first few minutes of the raid on the compound where he was staying on Monday morning. Bin Laden's daughter was among the six children rescued by Pakistani forces from the three-storey compound following the US raid.

A Pakistani source told the news channel that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot and no shots were fired by anyone with him. “Not a single bullet was fired from the compound at the US forces and their choppers. Their chopper developed some technical fault and crashed and the wreckage was left on the spot,” the news service quoted the official as saying.

Mr Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney said last night the White House is still considering whether or not to release photographs of bin Laden's body, which could provide proof of his death but risk offending Muslims. "It's fair to say that it's a gruesome photograph," Mr Carney said. "There are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs."

Pakistan's prime minister today defended his country's failure to uncover bin Laden’s compound near Islamabad, saying that fighting terrorism was the whole world's responsibility.

"There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone," Yusuf Raza Gilani told reporters in Paris today before a meeting with French president Nicholas Sarkozy. “Certainly we have intelligence sharing with the rest of the world, including the United States, so if somebody points out that there are ... lapses from the Pakistan side, that means there are lapses from the whole world.”

Mr Gilani said Pakistan had paid a heavy price for its involvement in the US-led "war on terrorism", with more than 30,000 Pakistanis killed since the fighting in Afghanistan began.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today the US operation in which bin Laden was killed was justified. “The bottom line here is that the founder of al-Qaeda has been responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people, and I think it has been justified to carry out this operation against him," he told a news briefing. "And I do hope that this very successful operation will lead to undermining one of the world's most dangerous terrorist networks, and I think that is what counts for a huge majority of people across the globe."

Meanwhile, the US believes it can dismantle the entire al-Qaeda network following the killing bin Laden, Mr Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said yesterday.

“We’re going to try to take advantage of this opportunity we have now with the death of bin Laden to ensure that we’re able to destroy that organisation,” Mr Brennan said in an interview. “We’re determined to do so and we believe we can. We believe that we have damaged the organisation, degraded its capability and made it much more difficult for it to operate inside of Pakistan as well as beyond.”

Mr Brennan’s remarks contrasted with earlier warnings by US officials that al-Qaeda is likely to retaliate for bin Laden’s killing. He said the administration knew of no specific threats 48 hours after bin Laden’s death. The US was nonetheless “taking all those prudent measures that we need to whenever there’s an incident of significance like this . . . Right now, I think we feel pretty confident that we are at the right posture,” he said.