5 May 2011

Osama bin Laden killing leaves Archbishop ‘uncomfortable’

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the killing of Osama bin Laden has left him with a “very uncomfortable feeling”. Bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot dead by US forces in a compound in Pakistan.

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the killing of Osama bin Laden has left him with a very uncomfortable feeling (Getty)

Osama bin Laden was killed on Monday by US Navy seals before his body was buried at sea. President Barack Obama has said photos of bin Laden’s body will not be published as they could pose a risk to national security.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking at a press briefing when he was asked a question about the terror leader’s death.

Dr Rowan Williams said: “I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done.”

He continued: “I don’t know the full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal in terms of the atrocities inflicted it is important that justice is seen to be served.”

Conflicting accounts of bin Laden’s death

The Archbishop raised his concerns at Lambeth Palace after the White House was forced to backtrack on some key details about the US Navy Seal operation which ended in bin Laden’s death.

It emerged that bin Laden was unarmed when he was shot by US commandos and did not attempt to shelter behind his wife, as initially believed.

In a briefing on Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted the special forces were prepared to take bin Laden alive but said he was “resisting” when he was killed.

Mr Carney also disclosed that a woman who died in the raid had not been acting as a human shield, as previously claimed, but was caught in crossfire.

Read more from Channel 4 News: did Osama bin Laden's death justify water-boarding?

One of bin Laden’s wives was, however, shot and wounded when she tried to rush the American troops as they burst into the family home, he said.

Mr Carney acknowledged there had been inaccuracies in the original accounts of the raid given by US officials, saying they had released “a great deal of information in great haste”.

The US government has continuously defended its decision to take out bin Laden.

US Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee: “Let me make something very clear, the operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed was lawful.

“He was the head of al-Qaeda – an organisation that had conducted the attacks of September 11. He admitted his involvement.

“It was justified as an act of national self defence. If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate.”

The US president is due to visit the site of the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York, one of many bin Laden claimed to have masterminded.

The Archbishop's comments have divided opinion - Channel 4 News takes a look at your reaction on Facebook.

Michaela Hughes: Uncomfortable here too. Always wrong to kill someone, especially unarmed no matter who they are or what they did.

Carol Fletcher: The Archbishop has too much to say for himself. He is far too controversial, he is not a politician. He should stick to his pastoral care duties or look for another job.

Andy Titcomb: He deserved a trial. Otherwise we are no better than the terrorists, summarily killing people.

Adam Williams: He should have kept his comments to himself, in his own words he admits he 'only knows as little as the rest of us' so in his position of influence and responsibility he should not be speculating on issues which clearly have a political element to them as it could further inflame the tensions.

Julia Wainwright: Archbishop Rowan is right to express his opinion. Bin Laden should have been put on trial.