For example, how did they identify Osama bin Ladin? How can they identify with such confidence a DNA match?

How can you compare DNA against a sister and determine that it is indeed Osama bin Ladin?

The man could have been a relative, not a perfect match.

  • How many siblings of OBL's sister are fighting with Al Qaeda in Pakistan? Also, please use proper grammar in your questions: end questions with a question mark, use capitals for "Osama" and "Ladin", and consider using a comma after "relative".
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 6:11
  • 2
    DNA matching refers to a broad series of technologies. Could you point to a source that describe the way Osama bin Ladin was supposedly identified?
    – Christian
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 9:53
  • This could all have been a staged show. The dead man could have been a cousin.
    – mathaix
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 12:10
  • 4
    @Mathiax:True. But in that case, Osama just has to appear on camera to prove them wrong. And due to the large amount of negative sentiment that would be generated atowards the president if Osama was alive, I am sure Obama made sure of the facts before releasing the details.
    – apoorv020
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 12:39
  • @apoorv020 my point it is only highly probable that the man is Osama. To be 100% sure, they would need to compare the DNA against an original sample of Osama himself; in which case when and how did they collect it. He is from a big family, many could look like him and also have a close enough DNA profile. And even if it was him, nothing is to stop another smart cazy nut job from pretending to be him.
    – mathaix
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


From NewScientist:

Using DNA from many half-siblings could produce a DNA match of greater than 90 per cent confidence, but it would be difficult to get as high as 99.9 per cent without a closer relative says Rhonda Roby, a forensic geneticist at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth.

Roby, who led the team using DNA evidence to identify the remains of people killed in the 9/11 attacks in 2001, says that the statistical analysis based on DNA from half-siblings is more complex and less reliable than analysis based on DNA from a closer relative like a parent or child.

There are reports that one of bin Laden's sons was also killed in the raid.

Roby says DNA from a son and several half-siblings could confirm Osama's identity with 99.9 per cent accuracy.

If, however, the government was able to obtain DNA from bin Laden's body, his son and also that son's biological mother – who might have been at the compound during the raid, it could perform DNA profiling with a "full paternity trio", assuring 99.9 per cent accuracy, Roby says.

According to ABC:

DNA collected from bin Laden's body Sunday was compared to DNA from multiple relatives, a U.S. intelligence official told ABC News.

The U.S. is believed to have collected DNA samples from bin Laden family members in the years since the 9/11 attacks that triggered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The New York Times says the same:

Officials said they collected multiple DNA samples from Bin Laden’s relatives in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bin Laden did not have any full siblings. He did have more than 50 half-siblings, some of whom have close ties to the United States and had long ago distanced themselves from him.

Christie Wilcox explains in a Scientific American article how the get a DNA fingerprint and that nowadays it takes only a few hours.

  • 3
    Again don't see how this analysis makes it 99.9% conclusive. The premise is that the son is Osams son. But how did they Id the Son. The killed son, could have just been the son of the man killed. The argument is like a house of cards based on circular dependecies.
    – mathaix
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 16:15
  • 1
    @mathaix - AFAIK it's not yet know what family member(s) was/were used for the DNA match. But apparently OBL had more than 20 children. Plus, DNA wasn't the only method used to identify him.
    – Oliver_C
    Commented May 5, 2011 at 21:28
  • This implies, that you can confirm the identity of the killed son, and that the father of both sons is identical. AFAIK, a lot of social fathers aren't genetic fathers. Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 4:08

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