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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 21 January 2021

Gruesome pic of 'dead Osama' is a fake (graphic content)

Same doctored photograph did the rounds two years ago – but that didn’t stop a number of news organisations falling for it again today.

WHERE’S THE BODY? That was one question posed by the burial at sea of Osama Bin Laden’s body after he was killed today in his compound in Pakistan.

A gruesome photograph, allegedly of Osama’s bloodied corpse, began doing the rounds of the internet this morning. However, more than a cursory glance at the pic will show a strong resemblance to a snapshot taken at a news conference given by Bin Laden in 1998.

The clamour for evidence of his death today led to picture desks heaving a sigh of relief when the ‘dead Osama’ photograph reared its badly battered head. Reuters Chief Photographer in Asia, Russell Boyce, says as much in his blog where he says that when it appeared, every picture desk would have been “under tremendous pressure” to be the first to circulate it. However, the experienced editors at Reuters point out a number of telling bits of fakery. Said Boyce:

There was odd pixilation and blurring and his face was darker in some areas than others.
The biggest problem was that the picture looked familiar somehow. Quickly looking through dozens of our archive pictures we found that the bottom half of Osama Bin Laden’s face was identical to a picture of him speaking at a news conference in 1998.
After flipping the picture 180 degrees and overlaying it with the picture of the dead Osama Bin Laden we had a perfect match. It was a fake.

At least one Irish publication gave the picture prominence today on its front page but, as Boyce notes, the world is still waiting for a “genuine” photo of Bin Laden’s body.

Even more telling is the fact that the same picture of ‘dead Osama’ was published two years ago by a number of news organisations, who then had to do an embarrassing U-turn. The Guardian shows the evolution of the picture from a real photograph of an unidentified war victim. (Again: please note graphic content before clicking through).

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