WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said U.S. forces were "respectful of the body" of Osama bin Laden when they buried his remains at sea, despite criticism from some Muslim clerics that it violated Islamic practice.
"We took more care on this than, obviously, bin Laden took when he killed 3,000 people. He didn't have much regard for how they were treated and desecrated," Obama told CBS's "60 Minutes" program, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that the al Qaeda leader masterminded.
"But that, again, is something that makes us different. And I think we handled it appropriately," Obama said, according to an advance excerpt of an interview that will air in full Sunday.
Questions have multiplied since the White House said bin Laden was unarmed when U.S. helicopter-borne commandos shot and killed him Monday at the fortified villa where he had been hiding in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
Bin Laden's swift burial at sea from the deck of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the north Arabian sea has also stirred misgivings, with some Muslims saying it was done contrary to Islamic custom.
U.S. officials have insisted that bin Laden's body was washed and that Islamic prayers were recited in accordance with religious laws. They said there was concern that a grave could have served as a shrine and rallying point for his followers.
"It was a joint decision," Obama said when asked whether he personally made the decision for burial at sea. "We thought it was important to think through ahead of time how we would dispose of the body if he were killed in the compound."
"And I think that what we tried to do was -- consulting with experts in Islamic law and ritual-- to find something that was appropriate, that was, respectful of the body," Obama added.
Saudi Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obaikan, an adviser to the Saudi Royal Court, said: "That is not the Islamic way. The Islamic way is to bury the person in land (if he has died on land) like all other people." (Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Vicki Allen)
© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.