"FedEx delivered the package": US military emails shed light on Osama bin Laden's burial at sea

 

New York

Osama Bin Laden’s last rites aboard the USS Carl Vinson were shrouded in such secrecy that the ship’s crewmen had little idea what was going on as the slain Al-Qaida leader’s body was helicoptered in and swiftly buried at sea, new US military emails have revealed.

Commanders were careful to keep the operation under wraps, using code-words to refer to the body as it was airlifted from the Bin Laden compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, after the 1 May raid by US Navy Seals. “Any news on the package for us?” Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, deputy commander of the US Navy’s fifth fleet, asked Samuel Perez, the Rear Admiral in charge of the strike group that included the Vinson, to check whether the corpse had arrived.

“Fedex delivered the package,” Perez answered, according to the emails obtained by the Associated Press under a freedom of information request. “Both trucks are safely enroute home base.”

The documents reveal that only a small group of Navy bosses was kept in the loop as Bin Laden’s last rites were conducted in accordance with Islamic norms. In one message stamped secret, Gaouette informs the top brass about the procedures observed.

“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” he says in the 2 May email, addressed to the likes of the then chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, and James Mattis, the general in charge of US Central Command. “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.”

Highlighting the secrecy observed thorough the operation, which led to Bin Laden being killed by a Navy Seal,  Rear Adm. Gaouette added: “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.”

The emails released by the Defense Department late on Wednesday were heavily blacked out, according to the AP.

They constitute the first public disclosure of the details of the burial, which another message in the disclosed cache, written by the Vinson’s public affairs officer, confirms were only shared with a small group of the ship’s top officers.

Earlier this year, the Defense Department, responding to separate AP requests for details, said it could’t find any photos or videos taken during the raid. Nor, it said, were there any showing Bin Laden’s remains, claims that appear to chime with Rear Adm. Gaouette’s message to military chiefs. The Pentagon, meanwhile, said it could’t find a death certificate or DNA results identifying the terror chief’s body.

The information vacuum has mostly been filled by unofficial accounts, including disclosures by Mark Bissonnette, a former soldier who was among the American officer’s raiding the compound that night, and who recent published a first-person account called “No East Day”. Writing under the pseudonym Mark Ownen, the ex-Seal, claimed Bin Laden was unarmed and already dead or dying when soldier’s burst into his room.

The Pentagon did not authorize his account, while Mr Owen has said he did not disclose any secrets in the book.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Voices
Björt Ólafsdóttir is a member of Iceland's Bright Future party
voicesIceland's Björt Ólafsdóttir on her decision to take part in #FreeTheNipple
Life and Style
The Clove Club will charge customers when they book
food + drink
News
Lapping it up: a woman feeds felines at a cat café in Japan
newsThe vast majority of cat and dog 'wet foods' contain items not specified on the tin, study finds
Sport
Andros Townsend and Paul Merson
football
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat