Osama bin Laden was buried at sea from a US warship amid high secrecy that included his body being referred to as “the package” delivered by “Fedex”, secret military e-mails reveal. Among the details revealed are that no sailors were witness to the covert funeral.
The e-mails, which were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, are the first public disclosure of US government information about the al-Qaeda leader’s death.
The e-mails were released by the Pentagon. One, marked secure and sent on May 2, describes how bin Laden’s body was washed, wrapped in a white sheet and placed in a weighted bag.
According to another message from the Vinson aircraft carrier’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 e-mail from Rear Admiral 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 then deputy commander of the navy’s Fifth Fleet, and another officer also used codewords when discussing whether or not the helicopter carrying the body had arrived on the Vinson.
“Any news on the package for us?” he asked Rear Adm Samuel Perez, commander of the carrier strike group that included the Vinson.
“FedEx delivered the package,” Rear Adm Perez responded. “Both trucks are safely en-route home base.”
An e-mail from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette had also included reference to the degree of secrecy surrounding the mission saying: “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.”
Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid.
In a response to separate requests from AP for information about the mission, the Defence Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson.
The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, post-mortem report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.
The Defence Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid.
Osama’s execution code named Geronimo
The first indication for US President Obama that Osama bin Laden had been killed came when a Navy SEAL sent back the coded message to Washington that said simply, “Geronimo-E KIA.” Geronimo was the code name for the operation that sent two teams of 12 SEALS zooming by Blackhawk helicopters to a walled compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, to kill Osama.