Osama's Daughter Watched Father Killed by US Forces

2011-05-04
THISDAY Newspaper- Tokunbo Adedoja

One of Osama bin Laden's daughters saw her father being shot dead by United States forces, and was one of about 10 relatives of the Al Qaeda leader in custody pending interrogation, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters Tuesday.

The official, who declined to be named, said the daughter, aged 12 or 13, was one of the persons who had confirmed that the mastermind of September 11, 2001 attacks had been killed by US commandos in a raid early on Sunday.

The relatives – one of bin Laden's wives and up to eight children – will be interrogated and then probably turned over to their countries of origin, and not the US, in accordance with Pakistani law, the official said.

The official said the wife and children were left behind after an American transport helicopter, possibly an MH-60 Sea Hawk, was abandoned because of mechanical problems.

He said there was not enough room for the group on the other helicopters, which were transporting bin Laden's body, other male captives and the commandos.

Other developments in the bin Laden affair are:

•US officials are contemplating releasing pictures of the body of bin Laden to douse suspicion on the identity of who was actually killed.

•Pakistani authorities finally admitted yesterday that they had no foreknowledge of the US raid as the CIA revealed that it did not inform them because of fears of a leak.

•While she was not killed during the raid as erroneously believed, one of bin Laden’s wives had her leg broken in the process.

The White House is said to have received three sets of photos of bin Laden’s last moments Tuesday. The first set, considered the most recognisable, showed his body at a hanger after he was brought back to Afghanistan. It contains a clear picture of his face but it is considered gruesome because he has a massive open head wound across both eyes. It is said to be “very bloody and gory”.

The second set was taken at the burial at sea on the USS Carl Vinson, containing photos of the body before the shroud was put on and then wrapped in the shroud.

In the third set, there are photos of the raid itself with pictures of the two dead brothers, one of bin Laden’s dead sons and some of the inside scene of the compound.

The official who spoke to the CNN said the challenge was that the picture that included the most recognisable image of the face – from the hangar in Afghanistan – is so gruesome and mangled “it’s not appropriate for say the front page of the newspaper. On the other hand, this is the one that is most identifiable as him.”

The revelation that bin Laden had been holed up in a compound in the military garrison town for years has threatened to worsen US ties with nuclear-armed Pakistan, and raised questions over how the al Qaeda leader could live in comfort near Islamabad.

The Pakistani intelligence official acknowledged bin Laden's whereabouts may cause problems with the US, and also embarrass Pakistan.

"It looks bad," he said. "It makes us look like a fool or an idiot. It's pretty embarrassing."

But, he added, the CIA had not had any luck finding bin Laden for 10 years either. "Had we known where he was, we would have gotten him ourselves," the official said.

The White House counterterrorism chief said yesterday there was no evidence Pakistani officials knew bin Laden was living at a compound deep inside the country, but the US was also not ruling out the possibility.

Echoing President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani official said the US had acted alone in killing bin Laden, and that it had not asked for permission to enter Pakistani airspace.

"There is every possibility that what radars were there (in Abbottabad) were jammed," the official said, adding that up to 40 commandos had attacked the bin Laden compound.

The head of the CIA said the US did not tell Pakistan about the operation to capture al-Qaeda leader bin Laden because it feared the Pakistanis would leak information to the targets.

CIA Director Leon Panetta told Time magazine they decided co-operation "could jeopardise the mission".

In its article, billed as Panetta's first interview since bin Laden was killed, Time said: "The CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on.”

It quoted Panetta as saying "it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets.”

Bin Laden was apparently so confident of his security in the hideout that, when Navy SEALs raided the complex Sunday, there were no guards on site and he himself was not armed.

He was surrounded instead by his family. And, according to a senior US official who provided details to Fox News, bin Laden had a "treasure trove" of electronic material on site – more than one would expect from someone worried about getting caught.

That data and evidence are now being analysed by CIA staff at the agency's Virginia headquarters.

"The US is moving quickly to exploit this information before the cockroaches scatter," a senior defence official said.

Though the data could prove vital in on-going counterterror operations by US military and intelligence, the circumstances surrounding bin Laden's hideaway continue to raise concerns about how he was able to live in relative luxury in Pakistan for so long.

The US official confirmed bin Laden's wife and children who were on site at the time of the raid are now in Pakistani custody. Other US officials said that while Pakistan was not informed of the mission, the country was helpful in leading the US to bin Laden.

The White House on Monday provided new details on the timeline of the Sunday raid that led to his death. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that bin Laden "was not armed," but said US forces encountered resistance "throughout the operation".

He said the raid started when one US team worked its way up from the first floor of the main building, where bin Laden's family and one other family lived. Another US team cleared a separate building on the compound where yet another family had been living alongside bin Laden.

The first team killed two Al Qaeda couriers and a woman who got caught in the crossfire on the first floor of the main building, Carney said. The team found bin Laden and his family on the upper two floors.

"He did resist," Carney said. He said bin Laden's wife "rushed" somebody from the US team but was shot in the leg. Bin Laden was killed after that.

As more details emerge, it has become clear that the critical element leading to the mission was a stream of intelligence that started in 2003, leading the US to the courier who led them to bin Laden.

The senior US official who spoke with Fox News said the nickname of the courier was Abu Ahmed Al Kuwaiti, or "Father of Ahmed – the Kuwaiti".

At least one of the brothers had Pakistani citizenship but he and his brother were from Kuwait and spoke Arabic.

According to a US official, the US first learned of the nickname in 2003. The information came out of the CIA's interrogation programme; though officials insist it did not come from waterboarding.

The following year, a detainee said bin Laden trusted the courier to carry his messages. The claim was run by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, key architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and he downplayed the courier's importance, claiming he was retired and out of the business. Another detainee also claimed not to know him.

However, the strength of the denials was seen as a red flag by the CIA since other detainees were consistently claiming the courier had a close relationship with bin Laden.

Intelligence officials eventually traced the courier to Northern Pakistan and later to the specific compound where it turned out bin Laden was hiding.

 

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