Pakistan denies knowledge of US raid

THE PUNCH Newspaper

Pakistan on Tuesday denied any prior knowledge of the United States raid that killed Osama bin Laden, but said it had been sharing information about the targeted compound with the CIA since 2009.

The al Qaeda leader was shot dead by US Special Forces in an attack on a sprawling compound near a military academy in the northwestern town of Abbottabad early on Monday.

“Neither any base nor facility inside Pakistan was used by the US forces, nor did the Pakistan Army provide any operational or logistic assistance to these operations conducted by the US forces,” the foreign ministry said in a lengthy statement.

While Islamabad hailed the killing of bin Laden as an important milestone in the fight against terrorism, the statement said Pakistan had expressed “deep concerns” that the operation was carried out without informing it in advance.

“This event of unauthorised unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule,” the ministry said.

According to the statement, US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace by making use of “blind spots” in the radar coverage caused by the hilly terrain surrounding Abbottabad.

The foreign ministry said the Pakistani Air Force scrambled its jets within minutes of being informed of the US operation but there was no engagement with the US forces as they had already left Pakistani airspace.

It said Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence spy agency had been sharing information about the compound with the CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009 and had continued to do so until mid-April.

“It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior and technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Laden.”

Meanwhile, the head of the CIA has said the US did not tell Pakistan about the operation to capture 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”.

Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, says it is embarrassed by its failures on bin Laden.

Pakistan’s government denied knowledge of the raid before it took place.

bin Laden, 54, was the founder and leader of al-Qaeda. He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.

In its article, billed as Mr. Panetta’s first interview since bin Laden was killed, Time Magazine said, “the CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on”.

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

Pakistan received $1.3bn in US aid last year and provides logistical support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

However, relations between Islamabad and Washington have been strained by US suspicions that the ISI is covertly backing militants in Afghanistan, and by anger over US drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas.

Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs has defended the ISI.

In a statement, it said: “As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009.”

No base within Pakistan was used by US forces, the ministry said. It went on: “US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain.”

The ISI official gave new details of the raid, saying Bin Laden’s young daughter had said she saw her father shot.

He told the BBC’s Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad that the compound in Abbottabad, just 100km (62 miles) from the capital, was raided when under construction in 2003.

It was believed an al-Qaeda operative, Abu Faraj al-Libi, was there.

But since then, “the compound was not on our radar, it is an embarrassment for the ISI”, the official said. “We’re good, but we’re not God.”

He added: “This one failure should not make us look totally incompetent. Look at our track record. For the last 10 years, we have captured Taliban and al-Qaeda in their hundreds - more than any other countries put together.”

The compound is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy - the country’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst.

The ISI official also gave new or differing accounts of some of the events of Sunday’s raid. They included:

There were 17-18 people in the compound at the time of the attack

The Americans took away one person still alive, possibly a Bin Laden son

Those who survived the attack included a wife, a daughter and eight to nine other children, not apparently Bin Laden’s; all had their hands tied by the Americans

The surviving Yemeni wife said they had moved to the compound a few months ago

Bin Laden’s daughter, aged 12 or 13, saw her father shot

The official said it was thought the Americans wanted to take away the surviving women and children but had to abandon the plan when one of the helicopters malfunctioned.

The helicopter was destroyed by the special forces unit.

The US has not commented on anyone it captured or had planned to capture, other than saying it had taken Bin Laden’s body.

The ISI official said the organisation had recovered some documents from the compound.

The CIA is already said to be going through a large number of hard drives and storage devices seized in the raid.

The White House has not disclosed whether anyone has claimed the $25m (£15m) reward for leading the US to Bin Laden.


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