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US: Pakistan's denials over bin Laden unlikely

Washington dismisses Pakistan's claims that it didn’t know al-Qaeda leader was living in Abbottabad as highly unlikely; White House says arch-terrorist lived on site for at least three years

US security officials revealed Tuesday that White House intelligence indicated that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was living at the estate in which he was killed for the last three years.

 

It is also believed that bin Laden's youngest son, 18-yer-old Hamza bin Laden, was killed in the same US raid that killed his father. It is believed bin Laden was grooming Hamza to take over the organization upon his death. The younger bin Laden was implicated in the murder of the moderate Pakistani leader Benazhir Bhutto.

 

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US official also said that the woman killed during the raid was not his wife and was not used as a human shield by the al-Qaeda leader before his death – thus correcting earlier descriptions of the raid. Bin Laden's wife was injured but not killed in the assault.

 

According to US intelligence, Hamza, along with his 22 brothers and sisters and bin Laden's nine wives, were all living in the Abbottabad mansion. Washington officials said the women and children were placed in the care of the Pakistani authorities.


Illustration of the Abbottabad compound (Photo: Reuters)

 

'An embarrassment for Pakistan'

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has defended his country against accusations it did not do enough to track down bin Laden, but made no direct comment on alleged intelligence failures.

 

"Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world," Zardari said in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

 

Underneath a headline reading "Pakistan did its part," he added: "we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an Al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day."

 

But Zardari provided no detailed explanation on how bin Laden managed to live for years undetected in Abbottabad, a hillside retreat popular with retired Pakistani generals just a few hours drive from Islamabad.

 

"He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone," Zardari wrote.

 

Still, Pakistani media said Tuesday that bin Laden's killing would heap embarrassment on authorities hard pressed to explain how he had been able to live in the country undetected for years.

 

Some commentators suggested Washington would take action to show its displeasure with the authorities. Bin Laden had long thought to be hiding in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt in the northwest near the border with Afghanistan.

 

Washington has in the past accused Pakistan of lacking the resolve to root out militants and of maintaining ties to fighters targeting US troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

 

In the Washington Post, Zardari said Pakistan was as much a victim of al-Qaeda militants as any country and denied any notion that authorities had failed to act.

 

But newspapers said the raid would generate more questions on Pakistan's role as an ally in combating terrorism.

 

"Pakistan has found itself in quite the embarrassing situation. ... Whilst we have been allies of the US, we have been very trying partners, picking and choosing the militants we wanted to root out and the ones we wanted to protect," the Daily Times said.

 

"It is hoped we will not be on the receiving end of a negative fallout with the Americans, who are in this war for (the) long haul."

 

Earlier Pakistan's envoy to the United States, Husain Haqqani, promised a "full inquiry" into any intelligence failures, while angry US lawmakers demanding to know how a man blamed for killing thousands of Americans lived unperturbed in a country that receives billions of dollars of US aid.

 

AFP and Yitzhak Benhorin in Washington contributed to this report

 

 


פרסום ראשון: 05.03.11, 07:19
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