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The White House has warned that a photograph of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse was “gruesome” and said it was concerned it could be inflammatory if it was publicly released.

“It is fair to say it is a gruesome photograph … it could be inflammatory,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“We are reviewing the situation. We are going about this in a methodical way and trying to make the best call.”

Shot dead ... a policeman walks in front of the compound where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed.Shot dead … a policeman walks in front of the compound where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Photo: Reuters

Mr Carney added that senior administration officials were discussing whether it would be advisable to release the photograph of bin Laden after he was shot in the head by a US special forces soldier in a daring raid in Pakistan on Sunday.

The disclosure of images could provide further closure to Americans nearly a decade after the September 11, 2001, attacks that he masterminded. It could also disprove naysayers doubting the death of bin Laden.

But critics say such photos are distasteful and if the Obama administration releases them, they could offend Muslims and be exploited by extremists.

“What we don’t want to do is to release anything that might be either misunderstood or that would cause other problems,” said US President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, speaking on National Public Radio.

US officials have said facial recognition software and DNA testing prove the body is bin Laden’s.

So far the White House has released only photos of Mr Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials as they received live updates on the raid on bin Laden.

The Afghan Taliban yesterday called reports of bin Laden’s death “premature”, saying the United States had not provided sufficient evidence he was killed. The Taliban harboured bin Laden in southern Afghanistan before and immediately after the September 11 attacks.

CIA director Leon Panetta, nominated by Mr Obama to take over as defense secretary, acknowledged concerns and questions “that had to be debated” about the potential impact of releasing the photos.

“But the bottom line is that, you know, we got bin Laden and I think we have to reveal to the rest of the world the fact that we were able to get him and kill him,” he told NBC in an interview recorded before Mr Carney made remarks to reporters.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein acknowledged some value in releasing images to provide proof that bin Laden was dead. But at the same time, she said: “I just don’t see a need to do it,” pointing to the DNA evidence.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “I personally think it’s morbid and I’m not one that’s going to be yelling to make the photo public.”

“But this decision will have to be made by the president,” Mr Reid, a Democrat, said.

Releasing photos of the burial at sea could be less controversial than images of bin Laden’s corpse just after his death.

At the funeral service, his shrouded body was placed in a weighted bag and eased into the north Arabian Sea. Religious remarks were translated into Arabic and read aloud, the US military said.

Still, some analysts warned that objections from Muslim clerics to the sea burial could stoke anti-American sentiment.

The clerics questioned whether the United States properly followed Islamic tradition, saying Muslims should not be buried at sea unless they died during a voyage.

US officials have offered various reasons for the at-sea burial, including the need to bury him within 24 hours according to Islamic custom. Others have said it would prevent bin Laden’s grave from becoming a shrine.


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