How Laden’s body was buried at sea

Secret emails give details

Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from a US warship amid high secrecy that included his body being referred to as “the package” delivered by “Fedex”, secret military emails reveal.

No sailors watched as the body of the al-Qaeda leader – killed in a raid on his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on 2 May 2011 – was tipped from a board into the North Arabian Sea from aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson after brief Islamic rites.

The emails were obtained by the Associated Press under freedom of information. The news agency said they were heavily blacked out but nonetheless offered the first public disclosure of government information about the al-Qaeda leader’s death.

Bin Laden was killed by a navy Seal team that swooped on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on 2 May by a senior navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and then placed in a weighted bag. According to another message from the Vinson’s public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship’s leadership was informed of the burial.

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” the 2 May email from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette reads. “The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

Earlier, Gaouette, then the deputy commander of the navy’s Fifth Fleet, and another officer used code words to discuss whether the helicopters carrying the Seals and Bin Laden’s body had arrived on the Carl Vinson.

“Any news on the package for us?” he asked Rear Admiral Samuel Perez, commander of the carrier strike group that included the Vinson.

“Fedex delivered the package,” Perez responded. “Both trucks are safely en route home base.”

The emails include a reference to the intense secrecy surrounding the mission and why few records were held. “The paucity of documentary evidence in our possession is a reflection of the emphasis placed on operational security during the execution of this phase of the operation,” Gaouette’s message reads.

Recipients of the email included Admiral Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and General James Mattis, the top officer at US Central Command. Mullen retired from the military in September 2011.

The Obama administration has kept a tight hold on materials related to the Bin Laden raid. The AP said that in response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the defence department replied in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing Bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of Bin Laden’s body taken while it was on board the Vinson.

The Pentagon said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for Bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of Bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The defence department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid.

Source: The Daily Star

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