US lawmakers see some photos

Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden speaks to a selected group of reporters in the mountains of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. (AP)

The Central Intelligence Agency has begun showing lawmakers death photos of slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden that President Barack Obama said were too gruesome to be released to the public.

Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, said he was shown 15 photographs taken of bin Laden after he was killed in a US commando raid on May 2.

In an interview with CNN, Inhofe agreed that the photos taken immediately in the compound in Pakistan immediately after bin Laden was killed were "pretty gruesome."

"One of the shots went through an ear and out through the eye socket. Or it went in through the eye socket and out - then exploded," he said. "That caused the brains to hang out of the eye socket, so that was pretty gruesome."

Three photos were taken after bin Laden's body was removed from the compound and flown to a US aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, Inhofe said.

They show the Al-Qaeda leader's body being washed and prepared for burial according to Muslim rites, and then lowered into the sea, he said.

"They had taken enough blood and material off his face so it was easier to identify who it was," Inhofe said.

"Then of course the burial at sea, had the transition - first of all, identifying who it was. Then of course the fact that they buried him at sea," he said.

Inhofe said he had no doubt the man was bin Laden.

"Absolutely, no question about it. I've seen them. That was him. He's gone. He's history," he said.

In deciding not to release the pictures to the public, the White House expressed fear that they would inflame sentiment in the Middle East and be used as a propaganda tool against the United States.

But Inhofe, who thought the pictures should be made public, said he still believed that those taken aboard the USS Carl Vinson should be released.

Besides Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the pictures were to be shown to other ranking members of key committees.

John McCain, the Republican senator, told a journalist he did not plan to see the images, noting: "I've seen enough dead people in my life."

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