Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

48 deadly minutes that ended 10-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kevin Van Orden, whose brother is in the U.S. Army, celebrates outside the World Trade Center site after the death of accused 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was announced May 2, 2011 in New York City. Bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of a room in the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011
MIAMI, FL - MAY 02: Bob Kunst holds a sign that reads, "Thank G-D Osama Bin Laden is Dead" as he and two others from Shalom International hold a rally to bring attention to the plight of Israel as well as to show their support for the action that killed Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in was slain in Pakistan during a firefight with U.S. forces. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Penn State senior Jake Librizzi holds an American flag as he and others fill Beaver Canyon Avenue in downtown State College, Pa., around midnight on Sunday, May 1, 2011
BOSTON, MA - MAY 2: Flowers and an American flag lay on the Garden of Remembrance May 2, 2011 in the Boston Public Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. Families of local victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks gathered at the 9/11 memorial to reflect upon the death of Osama Bin Laden. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: People look out at Ground Zero a day after the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: A U.S. soldier walks by newspaper clippings on a wall at Ground Zero heralding the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
SHANKSVILLE, PA - MAY 2: Scott and Walter Neilly, brothers, from Bradford, Pa look over the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Angry supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam burn representation of the United States during a rally to condemn the killing of Osama bin Laden in Quetta, Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011. al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was slain in his hideout in Pakistan early Monday in a firefight with U.S. forces, ending a manhunt that spanned a decade. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)(AP Photo/Arshad Butt)
WASHINGTON - MAY 02: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) speaks as Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) listens during a post-meeting joint press availability May 2, 2011 at the State Department in Washington, DC. Secretary Clinton said in a statement earlier that the death of Osama Bin Laden does not end the battle with al-Qaida. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 2: An armored Park Police vehicle sits parked at the base of the Washington Monument May 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. The DC area and other places around the nation have stepped up security after it was announced that Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11th terror attacks, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Ground Zero is viewed a day after the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: A woman poses near the back of a newspaper vendor displaying a paper heralding the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Imagecs)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 02: A passer by looks at newspaper headlines reporting the death of Osama Bin Laden, in front of the Newseum, on May 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Workers at Ground Zero listen as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference at Ground Zero following the announcement of the death of al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Workers at Ground Zero listen as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at a news conference at Ground Zero following the announcement of the death of al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands with dignitaries and family of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at news conference at Ground Zero following the announcement of the death of al Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan (L) and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney
SHANKSVILLE, PA - MAY 2: Jeff Ray and his wife, Barbara, of Shanksville, Pa look over the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
SHANKSVILLE, PA - MAY 2: Jeff Ray of Shanksville, Pa holds a sign he made as he looks over the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
SHANKSVILLE, PA - MAY 2: Visitors Kathy Reid and Donna Warren look over the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
SHANKSVILLE, PA - MAY 2: Jeff Ray and his wife, Barbara, of Shanksville, Pa look over the crash site of Flight 93 following the announcement that Osama Bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan May 2, 2011 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Nearly 10 years after September 11, 2001 construction is underway to erect a formal memorial at the crash site. Last night U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - MAY 02: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (L) approach the podiums for a post-meeting joint press availability May 2, 2011 at the State Department in Washington, DC. Secretary Clinton said in a statement earlier that the death of Osama Bin Laden does not end the battle with al-Qaida. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 2: New York City Police officers and a K9 stand in a subway station May 2, 2011 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. Security presence has been escalated as a precaution after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: A member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Emergency Service Unit stands guard at Grand Central Station a day after the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011 in New York City. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden during a late night address to the nation from the White House in Washington on May 1. The mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks was killed in an American military operation at a compound in Pakistan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Massachusetts family members, from left, sisters Danielle and Carie Lemack who lost their mother Judy Larocque; Christy Coombs who lost her husband Jeffrey; and Irene Ross who lost her brother Richard Ross, all on ill-fated Flight 11 from Logan Airport on 9/11 grieve in Boston Monday, May 2, 2011 during a moment of silence at the Garden of Remembrance, a memorial dedicated to the 206 Massachusetts victims of September 11, 2001. The event was held in the wake of news of the death of Osama bin Laden. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama listens during one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama shakes hands with Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Green Room of the White House, following his statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton are pictured at left. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama talks with members of the national security team at the conclusion of one in a series of meetings discussing the mission against Osama bin Laden, in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama edits his remarks in the Oval Office prior to making a televised statement detailing the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1: In this handout image provided by The White House, Senior administration officials listen as President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Police officers keep watch at a makeshift memorial on the fence surrounding the World Trade Center site after the death of accused 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was announced May 2, 2011 in New York City. Bin Laden was killed in an operation by U.S. Navy Seals in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
This undated artist rendering handout provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces in Pakistan killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (AP Photo/CIA)
Joe Pisciotta of Falls Church, Va., left, and Eric Tcotco, of Washington, who have never met before, have their photo taken together by an American flag in front of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 2, 2011, the day after Osama bin Laden was killed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
John Flowers, graduating WVU basketball forward, center, prepares to jump as hundreds of fellow students celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden in Morgantown W.V. early Monday, May 2, 2011. Osama bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was killed in a firefight with elite American forces in Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011 then quickly buried at sea. (AP Photo/Daily Athenaeum, Matt Sunday)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of a room in the interior of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
This frame grab from video obtained exclusively by ABC News, on Monday, May 2, 2011, shows a section of the compound where it is believed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was tracked down and shot to death in Pakistan, Monday, May 2, 2011, by an elite team of U.S. forces, ending an unrelenting manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade. (AP Photo/ABC News)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
Osama bin Laden is seen in this undated photo taken from a television image. (Photo by Getty Images)
Osama bin Laden is seen aiming a weapon in this undated photo from Al-Jazeera TV. (Photo by Al-Jazeera/Getty Images)
Osama bin Laden
Afghan men point at a television screen as the killing of Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is announced in Kabul
A man who said he was dressed as "Captain America," cheers early Monday, May 2, 20111, across the street from the White House in Washington, as people gather to cheer the United States after it was announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Osama Bin Laden, the al Qaida leader, appears on this layout for an FBI poster after he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in June 1999, in connection with the bombings of the U.S.
A crowd outside the White House in Washington, cheers Sunday, May 1, 2011, upon hearing the news that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is dead. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A driver and passengers celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in the streets of Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, May 1, 2011. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night, May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A crowd in New York's Times Square reacts to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death early Monday morning May 2, 2011. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night, May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Dustin Fredrickson, of New York, center, holds up an American flag as he stands on a fire truck amongst those gathered in New York's Times Square reacting to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death early Monday morning May 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
A man who said he was dressed as "Captain America," cheers early Monday, May 2, 20111, across the street from the White House in Washington, as people gather to cheer the United States after it was announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Smoke, flames and debris erupt from one of the World Trade Center towers after a plane strikes it, in New York.
A U.S. Park Police officer is handed a flag as crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
This April 1998 file photo is thought to show exiled al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan
Osama Bin Laden has been killed in a US operation (AP)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 02: A giant flag covers the Green Monster as the national anthem is played before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels on May 2, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Both teams lined up on the baseline to observe a moment of silence to honor those that have died from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 02: A giant flag covers the Green Monster as the national anthem is played before the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels on May 2, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Both teams lined up on the baseline to observe a moment of silence to honor those that have died from the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
1998 file photo, onlookers stand at the foot of the damaged buildings in Nairobi, Kenya, after a huge explosion ripped apart a building in the Kenyan capital, heavily destroying the U.S. Embassy. Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States and blamed for the 1998 embassy bombing in Kenya and Tanzania, is dead, a person familiar with the situation said late Sunday. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File)
In this undated still from video released Sept. 10, 2003, Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, left, and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri appear. A person familiar with developments on Sunday, May 1, 2011 says bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has the body. (AP Photo/Al Jazeera via APTN)
In this Oct. 7, 2001, file photo, Osama bin Laden, left, with his top lieutenant Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, are seen at an undisclosed location in this television image broadcast. A person familiar with developments said Sunday, May 1, 2011 that bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has the body. (AP Photo/Al Jazeera, File)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

At just after 1.15am residents of Abbottabad were woken by shattering explosions. Prolonged bursts of gunfire followed and military vehicles hurtled towards a burning building in a wealthy neighbourhood on the edge of the city.

Killing zone: Map showing where bin Laden was found by US forces

A little later the silhouettes of three helicopters could be seen rising and disappearing into the dark sky. Nearly a decade after 9/11, the hunt for Osama bin Laden was finally over.

The operation which claimed the life of the founder of al-Qaida, and the world's most wanted terrorist, had taken only 48 minutes. Bin Laden had been shot dead.

Four others, including a woman, were also killed. A helicopter which had crashed at the site was blown up by the departing US special forces as they flew off with the bodies.

There had been a brief but fierce firefight with guards on the roof of the house opening up with Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. The downed helicopter may have been damaged in this exchange. Bin Laden was shot twice in the head, his death likely to be viewed as an execution after it emerged Barack Obama had sanctioned a ‘kill option’ to the US Navy Seals carrying out the mission.

Bin Laden's heavily fortified last refuge was only 100 yards from Pakistan's version of Sandhurst, the Kakul Academy, in a city bristling with security facilities.

US officials had little doubt that senior elements within the country's military and intelligence service had been shielding the al-Qaida leader, and had taken every precaution possible to ensure they did not learn how close the Americans were to getting their quarry.

The trail that led to the deaths at Abbottabad started six years ago when two detainees at Guantanamo Bay had provided the nickname for bin Laden's most trusted courier. It took another 12 months to find the man's real name, and it was not until 2009 that it emerged he was based close to Islamabad.

The fact the courier was operating with seeming impunity near the Pakistani capital convinced US officials he had the protection of the ISI, the Pakistani secret police, and reinforced their decision not to share their information with the Pakistanis.

Investigations, mainly reliant on electronic tracking, eventually led them to a residence the courier shared with his brother at Abbottabad. The mansion, set on a hilltop, ringed by 12-feet-high reinforced concrete walls topped with razor wire, had been built in 2005 at a cost of $1m (£600,000), 10 times more than other properties in the area. It did not, however, have either telephone or internet connection — seen as a counter-surveillance measure.

The CIA was convinced the location was for the use of someone extremely important and, for a while, explored the possibility it might be housing Mullah Omar, the former head of Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

But after a month's surveillance the CIA told the President it believed it was, in fact, bin Laden who was staying in the compound.

Two more months of surveillance followed before Mr Obama held the first of five meetings with the National Security Council on March 14.

The last session took place at 8.20am last Friday when, before flying off to inspect flood damage in Alabama, President Obama finally authorised the operation.

It began when a special forces squad took off from the Ghazi airbase in north-west Pakistan. They returned with bin Laden's corpse, which was transferred to another aircraft heading for Afghanistan — where he had first found fame in the US-sponsored war against the Russians.

There, at Bagram airbase, the formalities of identification were concluded, and the man who had been projected as the most dangerous enemy facing the West, was taken on his final journey for burial at sea.

Questions and answers

Q Why did the Americans kill, not capture, Osama bin Laden?

A Security sources in Washington have said the mission was to kill, not capture, bin Laden. But it was widely reported that American special forces asked bin Laden to surrender, but that he refused to do so and was shot in the head. Had the al-Qaida leader been arrested, he would likely have been taken to a high security American prison before being tried for the September 11 attacks and other terrorist atrocities. The process could have taken years.

Q Did any other country take part in the raid?

A No. The operation was undertaken entirely by the United States. It is unclear whether the US gave allies, such as Britain, any advance notice, but it seems clear that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, was not told until after the raid.

Q Has the US offered any evidence of the death?

A A photograph purporting to show bin Laden's corpse was circulated on the internet yesterday, but quickly dismissed as a fake. The Americans have said that DNA evidence confirmed that the body was that of bin Laden, but so far have offered no evidence. Until photographic evidence, at the very least, is published, yesterday's operation will lead to a plethora of conspiracy theories.

Q Was anyone else killed in the raid?

A Three other people were killed in the attack, including one of bin Laden's adult sons. A courier was also killed, as was a woman.

Q What has happened to bin Laden's body?

A After the raid US troops took the body to an airbase across the border in Afghanistan. Bin Laden is originally from Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh refused a request to take the body, so it was removed from Afghanistan and buried at sea. The advantage is that it leaves no monument for supporters to use as a focal point.

Q Was he treated in line with Islamic tradition?

A According to the Americans, the body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition. The sea burial has already been criticised by Muslims, however. “They can say they buried him at sea, but they cannot say they did it according to Islam,” said Mohammed al-Qubaisi, the grand mufti in Dubai. “If the family does not want him, you dig a grave anywhere, say the prayers and that's it.”

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