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US debates release of Osama bin Laden pictures to quash doubts over death | World news | 2011-05-03


"We are looking at releasing additional information, details about the raid as well as any other types of material, possibly including photos," White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said on ABC News's Good Morning America show. "We want to understand exactly what the possible reaction might be to the release of this information."

The DNA evidence that confirmed Bin Laden was dead came through in the morning after the assault at Abbottabad.

By that time, US intelligence officials were 95% certain they had their man. He was identified by those who took part in the raid and by a woman in the building said to be one of the fugitive's wives.

Further identification came from photographs of the body that were beamed back to CIA specialists who compared them with confirmed images of the al-Qaida leader.

The DNA test left little room for doubt, with one intelligence official telling reporters they had "a virtually 100% match" of the body against DNA taken from "several Bin Laden family members."

As a prioritised task, the DNA analysis could be completed within six hours, said Mark Jobling, a geneticist at Leicester University where DNA fingerprinting was invented.

The first step was to extract DNA from a swab of blood or saliva, a procedure that can be done with a commercial kit in minutes. The next stage was to create a DNA profile to check against those compiled long ago from Bin Laden's relatives.

A genetic profile is based on regions of DNA called short tandem repeats (STRs). These are parts of the genetic code where a sequence of "letters", such as GATA, repeats several times over. The number of times an STR repeats varies from person to person, but is crucially inherited from parents, passed on to children and shared with siblings. A typical genetic fingerprint shows how many times 10 or more STRs repeat in an individual.

The match was obtained when the genetic profile of the dead man was compared with profiles already worked up for Bin Laden's close relatives, such as his sister, who is reported to have died in a Boston hospital. A sibling of Bin Laden's would share half his DNA, but a much stronger match was possible with profiles from more relatives.

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