A photograph broadcast on Pakistani TV purporting to show the corpse of Osama bin Laden was a fake.
The photo, which depicted a bloodied head with a strong resemblance to the al-Qaida leader, was widely used on TV networks and newspaper websites as news broke of his death this morning.
Online users of websites such as Twitter soon exposed the image as a hoax which had reportedly been in circulation as early as 2009.
The photograph appears to have been digitally manipulated to combine the lower half of bin Laden’s face, from a genuine 1998 photo, with a photograph of the head of an unidentified corpse.
Stokes Young, director of multimedia at MSNBC.com, wrote on the site’s photoblog that two US officials had “warned NBC News that the image is a hoax”.
He wrote: “Based on an initial look into the image file, we agree, and think it’s a fake.
“At first glance, the pixellation around the ”wound“ area and the odd lack of transition between different-coloured cloth and flesh indicate that the image has been manipulated.
“Furthermore, the facial expression and beard are very reminiscent of a 1998 image of bin Laden.”
After overlaying the two images, he added: “The way the images ’lock’ in place at the mouth, beard and nose indicate to us that the image circulating on the web and some foreign television outlets is nothing but a clumsy fake.”
The image has been removed from use on most news sites and TV stations.