America will test DNA from bomb site to find out if bin Laden is dead

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The United States plans to perform DNA tests on pieces of human flesh taken from a missile-strike site in Afghanistan to determine whether it has killed Osama bin Laden.

The Pentagon confirmed yesterday that a US-led team of 50 personnel had recovered "documents, ammunition and weapons and some small pieces of bone and human flesh" from the strike site at Zhawar Kili, in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan.

The items were being sent for further analysis in America. It is known that the US has a DNA sample from at least one member of Mr bin Laden's extended family.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that local villagers said the casualties of the missile strike were three peasants out collecting scrap metal. But a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Victoria Clarke, said it remained confident that the attack last Monday by an unmanned CIA-controlled drone had struck "a legitimate target".

Ms Clarke said it was difficult to specify what the target had been because it had been chosen by the CIA, not the Pentagon. "[But] everything we know says it was the target that we expected," she said.

United States officials said they believed the target of the attack was an al-Qa'ida leader because of the deferential manner of his comrades. One of the three people killed was a tall man. This led to suggestions that he may have been Mr bin Laden, who is said to be about 6ft 6in.

Asked whether Mr bin Laden could have been among those killed, the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said: "We just simply have no idea."

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Mr Rumsfeld had called for an investigation into claims that Afghans mistakenly taken prisoner by US military forces in a raid last month were beaten and mistreated.