WASHINGTON — Three US senators retracted their claims of having seen a graphic photograph of Osama bin Laden's corpse, apparently the victims of a fake picture of the slain Al-Qaeda chief.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, had told reporters he had seen photos from the raid inside Pakistan during which the terrorist mastermind fell to US special forces commandos.
"They're what you would expect from somebody's been shot in the head. It's not pretty," he said on Wednesday, hours before it became clear that inauthentic photos had circulated among US lawmakers.
Asked whether Chambliss, who is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had in fact seen an official photo, spokeswoman Bronwyn Lance-Chester told AFP late in the day that "he has been very clear about this: He has not seen the official photo."
Two other members of the armed services committee, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte and Scott Brown, also backed off claims that they had seen gruesome photos of bin Laden's corpse.
Ayotte had said that "another senator" had showed her the picture and indicated that it showed bin Laden's head and upper torso.
"When you see the picture, it clearly has his features," she told reporters.
At day's end, Ayotte issued a statement saying: "While I was shown a photo by another senator of what appeared to be a deceased Osama bin Laden, I do not know if it was authentic."
Brown had told several media outlets that serve his home state of Massachusetts that he had seen the picture.
"Let me assure you that he is dead, that bin Laden is dead," Brown told New England Cable News (NECN) television. "I have seen the photos and, in fact, we've received the briefing and we'll continue to get the briefings."
NECN later posted an update saying that Brown's office had told them "that the bin Laden photos the senator mentions seeing about two minutes into the clip here were not authentic."
Of the three, only Brown said the pictures should not be made public, which remains President Barack Obama's position.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, said early in the day that she had not seen any US government pictures of Osama's corpse -- and was in no hurry to do so.
"It was Osama bin Laden," she said, calling DNA testing on the body "conclusive."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican who strongly opposes releasing the photographs, saw them at CIA headquarters on Monday, according to spokeswoman Susan Phalen.
"The chairman happened to be at the CIA on Monday and saw the photos there," she said.