Q&A: Why couldn't they take him alive?

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Indy Politics

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

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-Qa'ida leader been arrested, he would probably have been taken to a high-security American prison such as Guantanamo Bay, before being tried for the 11 September attacks and other terrorist atrocities. The process could have taken years. Some have suggested the Americans had an interest in killing Bin Laden, as any trial could have led to details of how his groups in Afghanistan were armed by the Americans during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.



Q: Did any other country take part in the raid?

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 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. When US forces killed Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, in 2003, the bodies were paraded on television, a move which sparked outcry in the Islamic world. But 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?

Four other people were killed, including one of Bin Laden's adult sons. A courier – thought to be the inadvertent source of the US intelligence that led to yesterday's raid – was also killed, as was another courier and a woman. Some reports have identified her as a human shield, while others have said she was one of his four wives.



Q: What has happened to Bin Laden's body?

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 from the Americans to take the body, so it was removed from Afghanistan and buried at sea. The burial is believed to have taken place off the deck of a US aircraft carrier. The advantage of a sea burial is that it leaves no monument for his supporters to use as a focal point.



Q: Was he treated in line with Islamic tradition?

According to the Americans, the body was handled in accordance with Islamic tradition and was buried within 24 hours of death. In the case of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the Americas held the corpses for 11 days sparking accusations of insensitivity. The sea burial has already been criticised, 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, it's really simple in Islam: You dig a grave anywhere, even on a remote island, you say the prayers and that's it. Sea burials are permissible for Muslims in extraordinary circumstances, [but] this is not one of them."

The world reacts: what they said

Barack Obama: On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qa'ida's terror: justice has been done.

George W Bush: The fight against terror goes on, but America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.

Sarah Palin: This is a victory for the American people, [and] for the victims who were heartlessly murdered on September 11.

William Hague: I would caution against premature celebration. Al-Qa'ida have lost a major, major figure but they are not finished

Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi Foreign Minister: We are delighted to see an end to his mentality and his devious ideology.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas leader: We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers.

Benjamin Netanyahu: This is a resounding triumph for justice, freedom and the values shared by all democratic nations fighting... against terrorism.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, Taliban spokesman: If Bin Laden has been martyred, we will avenge his death and launch attacks against the American and Pakistani governments.

Bin Laden: in his own words

If inciting people to do that [9/11] is terrorism, and if killing those who kill our sons is terrorism, then let history be witness that we are terrorists. (2001)

In today's wars, there are no morals. We do not have to differentiate between military or civilian. As far as we are concerned, they are all targets. (1998)

The war is between us and the Jews. Any country that steps into the same trench as the Jews has only itself to blame. (2002)

Freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The US government will lead America and the West into an unbearable hell and a choking life. (2001)

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