Osama Bin Laden: What happened to his body?

Osama Bin Laden: What happened to his body?

Why Osama Bin Laden Was Buried at the Sea

Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda and the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was killed by U.S. Special Operations forces on May 2, 2011, in a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. His body was identified by DNA tests and facial recognition technology, and then buried at sea within 24 hours of his death. 

The U.S. government claimed that it followed the Islamic tradition of burying the dead as soon as possible, and that it performed religious rites on the USS Carl Vinson before disposing of the body in the northern Arabian Sea. However, some Muslims questioned the legitimacy and necessity of this decision, and argued that bin Laden should have been buried on land.

Political Considerations

One of the main reasons why the U.S. chose to bury bin Laden at sea was to prevent his grave from becoming a shrine or a symbol for his followers. The U.S. officials feared that a physical grave could inspire more extremism and violence, and that it could also become a target for attacks or vandalism by his enemies.

Another reason was that no country was willing to accept bin Laden's body or to provide a Muslim burial for him. The U.S. reportedly asked Saudi Arabia, where bin Laden was born, but was declined. Other countries in the region may have also refused to take the body, fearing backlash from their own populations or from other states.

Religious Considerations

The U.S. also claimed that it respected the Islamic tradition of burying the dead as soon as possible, unless an autopsy is required. According to some sources, bin Laden's body was washed, shrouded in a white cloth, and placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker.

However, some Muslims disputed the validity and appropriateness of this procedure, and argued that bin Laden should have been buried on land, unless there was no other option. They pointed out that sea burial is only permissible in extraordinary circumstances, such as when someone dies on a sea journey or when there is no land available.

They also questioned whether the U.S. had any Muslim representatives who knew the basic Islamic law of burial, and whether bin Laden's family or supporters were consulted or informed about his fate.

Practical Considerations

The U.S. also faced some practical challenges in disposing of bin Laden's body. The U.S. had to act quickly to avoid any legal or diplomatic complications, and to avoid any leaks or doubts about bin Laden's death.

The U.S. also had to decide whether to release any photos or videos of bin Laden's body or of the raid itself. The U.S. ultimately decided not to do so, citing national security and ethical reasons. The U.S. argued that releasing such images could endanger its troops or allies, inflame anti-American sentiments, or violate Islamic sensibilities.

However, some critics and skeptics demanded more proof of bin Laden's death, and accused the U.S. of hiding something or lying about the operation.


The burial of Osama bin Laden at sea was a controversial and unprecedented decision by the U.S. government, which had political, religious and practical implications. The U.S. justified its choice by citing security concerns, Islamic customs and logistical difficulties, but some Muslims and others challenged its motives and methods.

The burial of bin Laden at sea may have prevented his grave from becoming a rallying point for his followers or a target for his foes, but it also raised questions about his legacy and his justice.


(1) Why Did US Forces Bury Osama Bin Laden’s Body at Sea?. https://www.history.com/news/osama-bin-laden-body-burial-ocean.
(2) Osama Bin Laden: What happened to his body? - BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-13261680.
(4) The Invisible Proof: A Review of the Reasons Why Photos of Osama bin .... https://special-ops.org/osama-bin-laden-burial-at-sea-and-photos/.
(5) Why Was bin Laden Buried at Sea So Quickly? | TIME.com. https://newsfeed.time.com/2011/05/02/why-was-bin-laden-buried-at-sea-so-quickly/.
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