Revealed: Details of bin Laden's Burial

No sailors observed the burial: emails

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 22, 2012 5:30 AM CST | Updated Nov 22, 2012 7:54 AM CST

(Newser) – Internal emails among US military officers shine a light on some details of Osama bin Laden's burial at sea. The heavily blacked out correspondence was released yesterday following a Freedom of Information Act by the AP. Among the revelations:

  • No sailors watched the burial occur
  • Traditional Islamic procedures were followed: Reads one email, "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."

  • Only a small group of the ship's leadership was told of the burial.
  • One email included a cryptic reference to the intense secrecy surrounding the mission. "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."
  • Code words were used to discuss whether the helicopters carrying the SEALs and bin Laden's body had arrived on the USS Carl Vinson. For instance: "FEDEX delivered the package. Both trucks are safely enroute home base."
AP made other requests for information that hit a dead end, it reports. The Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden's body in Abbottabad or on the Vinson. It also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report, or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden's body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson and then placed into the North Arabian Sea for burial.
Osama bin Laden's body was put aboard the USS Carl Vinson and then placed into the North Arabian Sea for burial.   (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, Daniel Barker)
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