COPY-White House: Osama dead, watery grave appropriate

WASHINGTON (RNN) - A top advisor to President Barack Obama defended the administration's decision to bury the body of Osama bin Laden at sea, saying appropriate steps had been taken.

John Brennan said in a news briefing Monday that Pakistan remains a strategic ally in the Middle East, and that appropriate authorities were present at the burial.

"We consulted the appropriate specialists and experts and there was unanimity that this would be the best way to handle it," he said.

Bin Laden, the chief mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks, was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in a Pakistan mansion. Obama made the announcement late Sunday night. DNA evidence proves the man who was killed is bin Laden, the White House said Monday.

"There should be no doubt in anybody's mind, this is Osama bin Laden," a government official said to the AP.

Government agencies raise threat levels

(RNN) - U.S. government agencies raised terrorist threat levels after President Barack Obama announced 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been killed by a small U.S. coalition.

The State Department issued a worldwide travel alert, urging U.S. citizens traveling and living abroad to be vigilant in the face of an increased possibility of anti-American violence.

"Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations," the alert said.

U.S. embassies will operate to their fullest possible extent, but may shut down or suspend public services, depending on how the security situation evolves.

The U.S. military is also taking additional precautions on its bases and installations.

The U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and other military bases increased their force protection condition level to "Bravo," which is its third-highest threat level.

The heightened security level will remain in effect until further notice.

An enlisted Air Force officer in Alabama, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly, told the Raycom News Network that U.S. bases face "imminent danger" of retaliation.

Hawaii News Now contributed to this report.

DNA was not the only evidence that confirms bin Laden's death, according to the Associated Press (AP). Matching physical features of his recovered body, a detailed CIA photo analysis and the testimonies of those at the scene all back the government's genetic testing.

Muslim clerics told AP that bin Laden's burial at sea is not in accordance with tradition. Islamic scholars say the burial is a flagrant disregard for the custom of placing the body with the head facing Mecca.

Certain exceptions are allowed, such as when a death happens aboard a ship.

"The Americans want to humiliate Muslims through this burial, and I don't think this is in the interest of the U.S. administration," Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical cleric in Lebanon, told the AP.

The U.S. government said it would have been difficult to find a country willing to take bin Laden's body, for fear it would create a permanent shrine.

Brennan refused to confirm or deny reports that two countries turned down requests to claim the body: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

It remains unclear if the U.S. government will provide photographic evidence of bin Laden's dead body.

During a previously scheduled event Monday, Obama said America is a safer place because of bin Laden's death.

"Today we are reminded as a nation there's nothing we cannot do," Obama said.

He also thanked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen and Vice Chairman James Cartwright, calling their steadiness and leadership "extraordinary."

Leads on bin Laden's whereabouts first surfaced last August, Obama said Sunday, but they was "far from certain." After several meetings last week, he and his national security team finally had enough intelligence to take action.

According to senior Obama administration officials, bin Laden was located in a $1 million compound in Pakistan.

"Intelligence analysts determined this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance," the official said. "Everything we saw was perfectly consistent with what experts expected bin Laden's compound to look like."

He noted it also had no phone or internet access.

In a 40-minute raid, bin Laden was killed, as well as three adult men, two believed to be couriers and a third, bin Laden's adult son. A woman was also killed when she was used as a shield by a combatant within the compound.

Brennan said the form that the assault took minimized collateral damage and respected the sovereignty of the nation of Pakistan.

He would not speculate on whether members of the Pakistani government had prior knowledge of bin Laden's presence on their soil.

"Certainly his presence there outside the capital raises questions," Brennan said.

Administration officials had said previously that intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts was not shared with any other country, and only a few people within the ranks of the U.S. government knew about the operation in advance.

The president called it "a good and historic day."

"We can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaeda's terror, justice has been done," Obama said.

"Let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11, that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores."

Bin Laden was widely regarded as public enemy No. 1 of the U.S.

"Well, this is a terrific day for America, and quite frankly the whole world that cares about winning the war on terror," said Andy Card, chief of staff of former President George W. Bush, to ABC.

Throngs of people gathered outside the White House Sunday evening and sang the national anthem and Queen's "We Are the Champions."

Before the announcement was made, U.S. military installations were placed on heightened alert in preparation for possible retaliation.

"There's no doubt that al-Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us," Obama said. "We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad."

According to MSA Security, however, the fate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, remains unknown at the current time.

"Zawahiri is widely believed to be the driving force for al-Qaeda operations worldwide," said the intelligence agency in a news release issued Monday morning.

The death of bin Laden comes almost 10 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the start of the war in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden is also wanted by the FBI in connection with a trio of bombings on U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya. The attacks, which killed more than 200, occurred on Aug. 7, 1998.

The FBI advertised a $25 million reward for information leading to Bin Laden's capture.


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