Why Was bin Laden Buried at Sea So Quickly?

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After spending many years hunting down the world’s most wanted man, why did the U.S. bury Osama bin Laden at sea within 24 hours of killing him?

The reason is bound up within Islamic practice and tradition. And that practice calls for the body of the deceased to be buried within 24 hours, according to a U.S. official, who spoke on Monday on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 defining moments of the post-9/11 era.)

“We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition,” confirmed the official. “This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore, this is being handled in an appropriate manner.”

But the lingering question is, Why at sea? The official said that finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist would have been difficult, so the decision was made to bury bin Laden at sea. Furthermore, one suspects that the U.S. would not have wanted there to be a grave site for fear of it turning into a place of worship for bin Laden’s followers. There are rumors, however, that the U.S. asked Saudi Arabia to take the body (bin Laden was born there), but it allegedly refused.

(More on TIME.com: See pictures of Osama bin Laden.)

It’s believed that DNA testing would have been carried out beforehand (and indeed TIME’s Michael Scherer has had it confirmed by the White House that the DNA testing matched the slain terrorist leader) to verify that the body was that of bin Laden, as well as being proof against any conspiracy claims that could emanate to suggest that his death didn’t take place. The exact location of the burial was not revealed. (via ABC)

See TIME’s obituary of Osama bin Laden.

See pictures of Americans at Ground Zero celebrating Osama bin Laden’s death.