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Obama won't release 'gruesome' Laden death photo
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Obama won't release 'gruesome' Laden death photo

The White House will not release the photos of Osama bin Laden taken after he was killed, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.

The Obama administration had earlier said that the photograph of a dead bin Laden — who officials say was shot in the face during the May 1 raid on his compound — was "gruesome" and that "it could be inflammatory" if released.

Obama made the announcement in a taped interview with CBS News set to air later Wednesday, part of an interview with the president set to air on "60 Minutes."

Three sets of photos of bin Laden's corpse — from the raid, from a hangar in Afghanistan and from the USS Carl Vinson, before he was wrapped in a shroud and buried at sea — were in circulation, according to CNN.

The shot from the hangar was close up on his face, with a visible head wound across both eyes, and said to be the goriest.

Amid skepticism over a lack of evidence that Al Qaeda leader was killed in a U.S. commando raid on his Pakistani compound on May 1, at least one top official had believed a photo would be released.

"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," CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday in an interview with "NBC Nightly News."

But ABC News reported Wednesday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates did not want the administration to release photos.

Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft: "We discussed this internally. Keep in mind, we are absolutely certain that this was him. We've done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden."

"We don't need to spike the football...given the graphic nature of the photo it would create national security risk."

Paul McNulty, a former U.S. deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, reportedly said he did not need to see proof. "The credibility of what has occurred seems to be self-apparent, and I don't think the government should react too quickly to any expression of that kind of skepticism," he said. "I think they've made a very credible case for what has occurred."

The U.S. military released pictures of the bodies of Saddam Hussein's slain sons in 2003 in order to prove that they were dead and as a means tostem attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

A number of doctored images purporting to be of bin Laden are already circulating on the Internet, while the FBI has cautioned against opening emails that purport to show photos or videos of bin Laden's death as they are being used spread viruses, according to Detroit Free Press.

Skeptics have called on the United States to release photos of bin Laden in order to prove that the al Qaeda leader is really dead.

Cash and 2 phone numbers

Separately, top U.S. intelligence officials told members of Congress at a classified briefing in the Capitol that bin Laden had cash totaling 500 Euros and two telephone numbers sewn into his clothing when he was killed — sure signs that he was prepared to flee his compound at a moment's notice.

Sources told Politico that Panetta told lawmakers about the items found in bin Laden's clothing in response to a question about why he wasn't more heavily guarded while at home in his relatively luxurious home near Islamabad.

The answer, according to a source who attended the briefing: Bin Laden believed "his network was strong enough he'd get a heads-up" before any U.S. strike.

Osama's wife named

By the time bin Laden was killed, he was down to only one of his five wives: Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, 29, the youngest and his rumored favorite, ABC news reports, given to him as a gift when she was still a teenager.

On the night of the raid, Amal, whose two sons and a daughter by bin Laden lived with them in the Pakistan compound, was in the bedroom with the Al Qaeda chief and reportedly reacted with fury to the appearance of the Navy SEALs. "She rushed one of the U.S. assaulters and was shot in the leg, but not killed," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Bin Laden had reportedly divorced one of his wives and three others had moved to Syria.

The Situation Room

Asked during a "PBS Newshour" interview whether he, Obama or other top officials watching "real-time aspects" the raid from the Situation Room, saw Osama get shot, Panetta said: "No. No, not at all. We — you know, we had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound."

He continued: "We saw from, you know, some of the operations that we knew that the helicopters had — were on the ground, that the teams were going into the compound. And that was the kind of information that we were following."

'Geronimo EKIA'

The White House, meanwhile, has given a more complete picture of the SEAL raid that took out Obama, with the AP reporting that a commando's curt message to superiors — "Geronimo EKIA," meaning enemy killed in action — signaled the end had come for the Al Qaeda chief.

Bin Laden was not carrying a gun when the SEALs shot him dead.

Panetta, however, told "PBS NewsHour" that bin Laden "made some threatening moves" that "represented a clear threat to our guys."

"I don't think he had a lot of time to say anything," Panetta said. "It was a firefight going up that compound... This was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs."

Panetta said that had bin Laden "thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn't appear to be representing any kind of threat," he would have been captured alive.

He said the CIA was still getting "feedback" on what happened.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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