A "death photo" of Osama Bin Laden is circulating on the Internet, only hours after the United States killed the terrorist leader in a daring military mission. However, it is a fake. The real "death photo" hasn't been published anywhere yet -- the Obama administration is reportedly debating whether to release the actual photo.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the fake version has actually been floating around for nearly two years now:
The bloodied image of a man with matted hair and a blank, half-opened eye has been circulating on the internet for the past two years. It was used on the front pages of the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mirror websites, though swiftly removed after the fake was exposed on Twitter.
It appears the fake picture was initially published by the Middle East online newspaper themedialine.org on 29 April 2009, with a warning from the editor that it was "unable to ascertain whether the photo is genuine or not".
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Here is the fake photo, courtesy MSNBC.
The picture on the left is a file photo from Reuters. The center image was sent in by a number of readers as an email attachment--it's initial provenance is unknown. The image on the right is a blend of the two others we made here at msnbc.com.
The Los Angeles Times reports that there is indeed a real photo -- that during the operation a photo of a dead Bin Laden was snapped and sent to analysts for positive identification.
As far as whether to release that photo, MSNBC said NBC News' Courtney Kube reports:
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A senior U.S. official says that they are still deciding whether to release a still photo of dead bin Laden.
"It is really, really graphic," the official said, adding that U.S. officials are trying to decide whether it is just too graphic to put out.