Senator describes "gruesome" bin Laden photos

WASHINGTON Wed May 11, 2011 10:32pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee viewed the death photos of Osama bin Laden on Wednesday and said the pictures -- some gruesome -- leave no doubt the al Qaeda leader is dead.

"Absolutely no question about it. A lot of people out there say 'I want to see the pictures' but I've already seen them. That was him. He's gone. He's history," James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, said on CNN.

Inhofe said he saw 15 photographs, nine taken at the scene of the May 2 raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan; three from the U.S.S. Vinson, where bin Laden's body was prepared for burial at sea; and three older photographs to compare for positive identification.

"They're gruesome, of course, because it was taken right after the incident," Inhofe said in a separate interview on Fox News.

Inhofe described some photos that showed brain matter protruding from an eye socket. But the senator, a proponent of releasing the pictures, said he had not changed his mind after viewing them.

Inhofe said he thinks at least two photos from the U.S.S. Vinson showing the body being cleaned should be released because they depict an easily identifiable bin Laden.

"I don't buy this whole concept that's coming out of the White House that you don't want to do this -- you might make the terrorists mad," Inhofe said.

President Barack Obama decided not to release post-mortem photos of bin Laden because doing so could incite violence and be used as an al Qaeda propaganda tool.

The CIA on Tuesday offered to show the photos to members of the House and Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees. Inhofe was the first member of the Senate to take the agency up its offer.

"I really wanted to do it so I could say, yes, I have seen it and to allay any of these concerns that perhaps he was not dead," Inhofe said. "He's dead. He's gone."

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Todd Eastham)