Pakistani security officials stand guard at the main entrance to the compound where Osama Bin Laden, the leader of terrorist network Al Qaida was killed by US military forces, in Abbottabad, Pakistan on 03 May 2011. Osama Bin Laden was killed 01 May in a shootout with US operatives, US President Barack Obama announced. Image Credit: EPA

Washington: He may have been America's enemy number one, but after US forces killed him, Osama Bin Laden was afforded Islamic religious rites by the US military as part of his surprise at-sea burial on Monday.

The US military said preparations for the Al Qaida leader's burial lasted nearly an hour.
His body was washed before being covered in a white sheet and religious remarks translated into Arabic by a native speaker were read over Bin Laden's corpse.

'Islamist practices'

"The burial of Bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance with Islamist precepts and practices," said John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser.

Washington said Bin Laden was buried at sea after US forces killed him at a compound near the Pakistani capital Islamabad because it was the best option, given tight time constraints.

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Under Islamic tradition Muslims need to be buried within 24 hours. Transferring the body to another country for interment could have taken too long, officials said.

The body was transported to the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which brought him to his final resting place somewhere in the north Arabian Sea.

Preparations for burial began at 0510 GMT and were completed at 6am GMT. His corpse was lowered toward the sea on one of the aircraft carrier's elevators.

Weighted bag

"The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker," the US official said.

"After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased's body eased into the sea."

News of the sea burial ignited immediate outcry, raising the possibility of wide backlash despite the apparent care the US military gave to his last rites.

A prominent imam in Egypt, Dr Ahmad Al Tayeb, said the US violated Islamic custom by not burying Bin Laden on land, a move seen as a US attempt to prevent his resting place from becoming a shrine for extremist followers.

Islamist lawyer Montasser Al Zayat said Bin Laden should have been buried in his native Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites.

In America, some questioned why the man responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people was laid to rest with such respect.

"I was a Navy doctor and if my (commanding officer) asked me to read a passage of the Koran over that guy, I would have gotten nauseated and sick and wouldn't have done it," said Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy.

Permanent graves on land

Muslims normally bury their dead in permanent graves on land and accept burial at sea only in cases where the body cannot be preserved intact aboard ship until it reaches shore.

Brennan said the US government had not determined whether it will publicly release a photograph of Bin Laden's corpse and it was unclear if a video of the burial might be made public.