The spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion admitted on Thursday that he felt “very uncomfortable” with the killing of Osama bin Laden when he was unarmed.
Contrary to initial reports that bin Laden had engaged in a 40-minute gun fight with U.S. Navy Seals, it emerged on Wednesday that the al-Qaida leader had been unarmed when he was shot dead in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Sunday.
Answering a question about the killing at a press briefing, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams also criticized conflicting reports coming from the White House about the events surrounding bin Laden’s death.
“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 said. “In those circumstances I think it’s also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help.”
White House and Defense Department officials have come under fire after admitting that initial briefings on bin Laden’s final hours were wrong.
The legality of the killing has been called into question, with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling for a “full disclosure of the accurate facts.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came out in defense of the Navy SEALs' actions. "The operation against Bin Laden was justified as an act of national self-defense," he said.
Further controversy has been fueled by U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision not to publish photos of bin Laden’s body as proof of his death.
Graphic images have been released of three men in bin Laden’s inner circle who were also shot dead in the raid.
There had been some pressure on Obama to release the photos in order to put an end to conspiracy theories that bin Laden is still alive.
Speaking to CBS’s 60 Minutes program, Obama defended his decision.
“It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence," he said. “You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies. The fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.
“But we don’t need to spike the football.”