The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 21, 2012

Internal emails offer details on bin Laden burial

— Internal emails among U.S. military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden's burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson and traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The emails, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the al-Qaida leader's death. The emails were released Wednesday by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed on May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that assaulted his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One email stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer briefly describes how bin Laden's body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and then placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson's public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship's leadership was informed of the burial.

"Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed," the May 2 email from Rear Adm. Charles Gaouette reads. "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."

The email also 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," Gaouette's message reads. Recipients of the email included Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. James Mattis, the top officer at U.S. Central Command. Mullen retired from the military in September 2011.

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