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Internal e-mails offer details on bin Laden burial

WASHINGTON — Internal e-mails among US military officers indicate that no sailors watched Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson, and that traditional Islamic procedures were followed during the ceremony.

The e-mails, obtained by the Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, are heavily blacked out, but are the first public disclosure of government information about the Al Qaeda leader’s death.

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The e-mails were released Wednesday by the Defense Department.

Bin Laden was killed May 1, 2011, by a Navy SEAL team that raided his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

One e-mail stamped secret and sent on May 2 by a senior Navy officer describes how bin Laden’s body was first washed, then wrapped in a white sheet, and placed in a weighted bag.

According to another message from the Vinson’s public affairs officer, only a small group of the ship’s leadership was informed of the burial.

‘‘Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed,’’ the May 2 e-mail from Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette reads.

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‘‘The deceased’s body was washed [ablution] then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.’’

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid.

In a response to separate requests for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photos or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of his body on the Vinson.

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report, or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The CIA, which ran the bin Laden raid, has not responded to a request for records about the mission.

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