Tere Bin Laden

It now turns out that Indian agencies had twice warned their US counterparts about the presence of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in an urbanized and heavily populated area not very far from Islamabad – once in mid-2007 and again in early 2008 when they specifically mentioned his likely presence in a cantonment area. On both occasions, the Americans either did not take the Indian intelligence seriously or perhaps were too busy working on their own inputs about Osamas whereabouts.

The first time Indian security agencies gave this information to the US authorities was in mid-2007, soon after a Taliban meeting in Peshawar which was attended by Osamas No.2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. According to the information gathered by Indian intelligence operatives, this meeting was also attended by top leaders of Haqqani network and at least two ISI officials.

Days after the meeting, Zawahiri visited Islamabad as per the information available with Indian authorities and this formed the basis of Indias first input to the US about Osamas hideout. "The urgency with which Zawahiri visited Islamabad or the area in its vicinity suggested that he was there for some purpose. We told them about Zawahiri visiting Islamabad and we also told them that we believed Osama may not be hiding in caves but in a highly urbanized area somewhere near Islamabad. Of course, nobody had spotted him and it was a conclusion we drew on the basis of the information we got," said a top intelligence official involved in processing the information.

In the next six months, Indian operatives every now and then came up with information about movement of Osamas confidants in the region. The next definite input passed on to the US agencies by Indian officials was in early 2008 when there was specific mention made of his illness and his likely presence in a cantonment area. "This time we specifically mentioned about his presence in a cantonment area. It was because we had definite information that his movement was restricted owing to his illness and that it would have been impossible for him to go to an ordinary hospital. We told the Americans that only in a cantonment area could he be looked after by his ISI or other Pakistani benefactors," said the official.

While the US has officially maintained that Pakistani authorities were not informed about the operation till the American choppers left Pakistani airspace, India security officials take this with a pinch of salt. "The Americans might have that capability but we have no reason to rule out that the Pakistanis decided to turn him in because he was proving to be too much of a liability for them with no operational utility," an official said.

This has also raised doubts about the whereabouts of Zawahiri, now widely regarded as al-Qaidas supreme leader. In the past, he has been reported to be hiding somewhere in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.

Burial at sea was the "best" option available for Osama bin Laden, the White House said as it asserted his body was handled strictly in accordance with the Islamic practices.

"The burial of bin Laden's remains was done in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices. It was prepared in accordance with the Islamic requirements," John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and homeland security, said.

"We early on made provisions for that type of burial, and we wanted to make sure that it was going to be done, again, in strict conformance," he said. "So it was taken care of in the appropriate way. I'm not going to go into details about sort of the where, but that burial has taken place."

Earlier, a senior US defence official said the religious rites were conducted for the deceased on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, which is located in the North Arabian Sea. Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed. Osama's body was washed and then placed in a white sheet.

"The body was placed in a weighted bag, a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased body eased into the sea," the official said. "Going to another country would have exceeded the time period we had," an official said.

The top counterterrorism official in the US pledged on Tuesday to "get to the bottom" of whether the Pakistani government provided help to Osama bin Laden in his decade-long efforts to avoid detection by those who were hunting him.

John O. Brennan, said on Tuesday on National Public Radio that "it would be premature to rule out the possibility." He added that "we're not accusing anybody at this point, but we want to make sure we get to the bottom of this."

Other senior US officials, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, however, praised the working relationship between the allies in the fight against terrorism.

"Our counterterrorism cooperation over a number of years now, with Pakistan, has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida," Clinton said on Monday. "And in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding. We are absolutely committed to continuing that cooperation."

The competing messages reflect the delicate diplomatic challenge the Obama administration faces.

On Monday, Brennan suggested that the US would go further than just letting Pakistan ask those questions. He said it was "inconceivable" that bin Laden did not have a support network inside of Pakistan, though he stopped short of suggesting that the network involved government officials. "We are going to pursue all leads to find out exactly what type of support system and benefactors that bin Laden might have had," Brennan said.

That question may be critical to the complicated relationship between the two countries.

The US is looking into various options whether to make public the "gruesome" photos of Osama bin Laden's corpse as these pictures might inflame enemies' passions if released to prove that the al-Qaida chief's death.

"It's fair to say that it's a gruesome photograph," White House press secretary Jay Carney said when asked why the Obama administration was reluctant to release the pictures of the last moments of bin Laden.

"Well, to be candid, there are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of this firefight, and we're making an evaluation about the need to do that because of the sensitivities involved," Carney said.

"We review this information and make this decision with the same calculation as we do so many things, which is what we're trying to accomplish and does it serve or in any way harm our interests. And that is not just domestic, but globally," he noted.

"It is certainly possible and this is an issue that we are taking into consideration, is that it could be inflammatory," Carney said but refused to entertain question as to who all have seen these pictures so far.

"We've made a great deal available to the public in remarkable time; we're talking about the most highly classified operation that this government has undertaken in many, many years.

And the amount of information we've tried to provide to you in this short period of time is quite substantial. We will continue to review that and make decisions about the appropriateness of releasing more information as that review continues on," he said.

"The visual material that is being reviewed, decisions about it will be made about what, if any of it, can be or should be released.

I don't want to get into specifics about what there is and what there isn't. I would just urge you to be patient given how much information has been released, and understanding about why we need to review this and make the appropriate decision," Carney said.

At the same time he denied reports that the pictures would be released soon.

"There is simply a discussion about what the appropriate action should be," he said.

On Monday, US special forces in a daring raid deep into Pakistan killed Osama in his secret lair.

Between attending a glamorous White House correspondents' dinner and meeting families of victims of the Alabama storms, US president Barack Obama successfully managed to put up a "poker face" for nearly 72 hours before he announced Osama bin Laden's death to the world.

The President had on Friday given the go ahead for the raids by US elite forces on the compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan where bin Laden was hiding with some members of his family.

Between then and till the time he announced late Sunday night that the al-Qaeda chief was dead, Obama had "balanced public events with a series of private military briefings. But nothing leaked.

"All presidents keep secrets, but over a 72-hour span leading to bin Laden's death, Obama's capacity to keep a poker face was tested as never before," Los Angeles Times said. On Friday, after signing off on the plan to send intelligence operatives to kill bin Laden, Obama flew to Alabama where he toured areas affected by the devastating outbreak of tornadoes that killed at least 297 people.

That night, Obama gave a commencement speech at Miami Dade College. He also met with the crew of the space shuttle Endeavour, whose flight was postponed. On Saturday night, he had hosted the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, attended by Hollywood celebrities, top journalists and politicians.

Osama bin Laden lived for the past five to six years in the compound deep inside Pakistan where the al-Qaida leader was killed by US forces, President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser said on Tuesday.

Bin Laden, who was living in Afghanistan before a 2001 US-led invasion helped topple its Taliban regime, was holed up in a compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad in Pakistan before Sunday's operation to kill him.

"Well, I think the latest information is that he was in this compound for the past five or six years and he had virtually no interaction with others outside that compound. But yet he seemed to be very active inside the compound," White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said.

"And we know that he had released videos and audios. We know that he was in contact with some senior al-Qaida officials," Brennan added.

"So what we're trying to do now is to understand what he has been involved in over the past several years, exploit whatever information we were able to get at the compound and take that information and continue our efforts to destroy al-Qaida," Brennan added.

On Tuesday, a massive manhunt was launched by Pakistani security agencies to trace the owner of the million-dollar mansion.

It is reportedly owned by a man from Waziristan tribal region because of which the house had come to be known as "Waziristan Haveli", 'Dawn' newspaper reported.

Neighbours piecing together clues said two low-key businessmen living in the high-security house, known to some in the neighbourhood as Arshad and Tariq Khan, were often seen in the streets of of Abbottabad. Arshad, a man of around 40, apparently bought the land and built the house, while Tariq was believed to be aged in his 30s. Some neighbours thought they were brothers, while others said they were cousins.

Jawed Jadi, a cook in a dusty local eaterie, said he often saw Arshad and Tariq taking their families out. "We used to see two men, Arshad and Tariq. We saw them taking their wives and children in a red Suzuki Carry (minivan). Sometimes the men were coming with children to buy bread," he said.

Mohammed Asif, who bakes traditional naan bread for five rupees apiece in his simple shop, was delighted that he may have cooked bin Laden's last supper. He said Arshad came in on the evening before the attack. "Arshad came and bought seven or eight naans."

Asked how he felt to have been bin Laden's baker, Asif said: "I'm proud of it, because he was a hero who challenged America."

"I will tell my grandchildren that it was not our army that launched an offensive against him, it was the Americans."

When one of Osama bin Laden's most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led US pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world's most wanted terrorist.

That monitored phone call, recounted Monday by a US official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden's personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt. The courier, in turn, led US intelligence to a walled compound 60km from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, where a team of Navy Seals shot him dead.

The violent final minutes were the culmination of years of intelligence work. To the CIA team hunting bin Laden, it was always clear that bin Laden's vulnerability was his couriers. He was too smart and too paranoid to let Qaida foot soldiers, or even his senior commanders, know his hideout. But if he wanted to get his messages out, somebody had to carry them, someone bin Laden trusted with his life.

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, detainees in the CIA's secret prison network told interrogators about a courier with the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti who was close to Osama. After the CIA captured Qaida's No. 3 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, he confirmed knowing al-Kuwaiti but denied he had anything to do with al-Qaida.

Then in 2004, al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Ghul told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was crucial to Qaida. In particular, Ghul said, he was close to Faraj al-Libi, who had replaced Mohammed as al-Qaida's operational commander. It was a key break in the hunt for in bin Laden's personal courier. "Hassan Ghul was the lynchpin," a US official said.

Finally, in May 2005, al-Libi was captured. He admitted to the CIA that when he was promoted to succeed Mohammed, he received the word through a courier. But he made up a name for the courier and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, a denial that was so adamant and unbelievable that the CIA took it as confirmation that he and Mohammed were protecting the courier. It only reinforced the idea that al-Kuwaiti was very important to al-Qaida. If they could find the man known as al-Kuwaiti, they'd find Osama.

After the initial shock of watching Osama bin Laden being snatched from under their noses, the Pakistani establishment hastily covered up on their participation in the biggest top-secret operation in recent times. Pakistan's envoy to the UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, boasted, "It is a joint operation, secretly collaborated, professionally carried out and satisfactorily ended."

But the US seems unwilling to play along. John Brennan, US deputy national security adviser, told journalists bluntly, "We shared our intelligence on this Bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan. That was for one reason and one reason alone: We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel."

The new assertiveness by US is unnerving to a Pakistan long accustomed to calling the shots in a relationship where it was the weaker partner. Since 9/11, Pakistans former president Pervez Musharraf initially compromised when US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage delivered his "with-us-or-against-us" ultimatum. But in the ensuing decade, Pakistan played with the Taliban and al Qaida even as it gave bases to the US for intelligence and operations or, occasionally picked off a key al Qaida leader.

It was a throwback to the Ronald Reagan years when US overlooked Pakistans nuclear weapons programme in return for Pakistani cooperation for defeating USSR in Afghanistan. The "ask no questions" mantra worked. By 1990, Pakistan was a full-blown nuclear weapons power and the Russians had lost.

Spoiled by its earlier Afghan experience, Pakistan failed to read the tea leaves when the US subtly changed the rules as Afghanistan sank into insurgency and US stared at defeat. Islamabad got over $20 billion from the US while the war almost brought a superpower to its knees. Yet, so long as George Bush was in office, US and Pakistan played by the "Ronald Reagan" rules.

Obama changed the discourse by slapping Pak to the Af. US special forces started going into Pakistan dressed as diplomats, contractors and administrative staff as the fight against terrorism shifted territory. Pakistan woke up to it only when US contractor Raymond Davis was picked up. In the US, speculation has it that Davis may have been on to something big when the Pakistanis grabbed him. In light of the Osama operation, US anxiety to pay large sums of money to get Davis out may be understandable. Hours after Davis exited Pakistan, it was hit by deadly drones, an unusual sign of US aggression. That came to a head with the death of Osama.

Pakistan believes it has some unbeatable points of leverage with the US. First, its geography makes it a strategic asset, no matter how rogue it gets. Second, its ability to nurture Taliban and al Qaida which kept the US and Afghanistan bleeding, and a role for Pakistan in resolving Afghanistan to its convenience. Meanwhile, US was reducing its Pak burden -- it quietly shifted over 20% of its supply chain to Afghanistan through Russia. Technology, whereby drones operated from Nevada bumped off militants in FATA, also helped to undermine the geography argument.

Osamas death by a long-distance operation may have permanently damaged Pakistans other trump card. Watch out for the endgame in Afghanistan, because America has just shown it is not ready to let Pakistan control the war.

The direct role of Pakistans Inter-Services Intelligence in harbouring Osama bin Laden, first elsewhere and then in the cooler climes of Abbottabad where he met his maker, may never be known.

But there is growing realization around the world, with some US senators on Tuesday reinforcing the charge against Pakistan security and intelligence agencies of playing "a double game" of staggering proportions in the so-called global war against terrorism, that it will be virtually impossible to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Islamist terror till one of its main benefactors is neutered.

From the Haqqani network in Afghanistan to the Lashkar-e-Taiba operations in India, the shadowy ISI has long emerged as the prime clandestine sponsor and facilitator of militant Islam and transnational terrorism across the world.

Just last month, for instance, it came to light that secret US files sent to interrogators in Guantanamo Bay held ISI should be ranked with extremist outfits as al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

ISIs two main targets, of course, have always been India and Afghanistan, with the clear agenda being to make the former bleed through a thousand cuts, while facilitating the installation of a friendly regime in the latter.

"ISI operates with the mindset of a semi-criminal or a mafia don, indulging in activities such as killing innocents. Its an integral part of the Pakistan Army and plays a very crucial role vis-à-vis India and Afghanistan. ISI has been using terrorism as a state activity for long," says former Intelligence Bureau chief Ajit Doval.

ISI, of course, draws its support, sustenance and strength from its big brother, the Pakistan Army. It is no happenstance that Gen Kayani was the ISI chief before he took over as Army chief in 2007. Or, that the present ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha was the director-general of military operations before taking charge of the intelligence agency, which even has successfully dabbled since the 1970s in controlling Pakistans domestic politics to a large extent.

That the ISI has virtually no oversight in terms of civilian or political control was brought home when the new civilian government in Pakistan in 2008 tried to bring ISI under its control but had to embarrassingly backtrack within a few hours.

Though it was created soon after the Indo-Pak conflict over J&K in 1947-48 to plug the gaps in intelligence sharing among the Pakistani armed forces, the ISI took some time to gain global notoriety as "a state within a state". It really came into its own in the 1980s when CIA and others used it to funnel arms and money to the Mujahideen battling the Soviets in Afghanistan.

From there on, there was no stopping the ISI from becoming one of the most powerful intelligence agencies in the world. Concomitant with this was the realization that it was futile to confront New Delhi in terms of conventional military strength, and therefore the need to resort to irregular warfare or proxy war to bleed India.

Despite its misgivings, with even the top US military officer Admiral Mike Mullen last month reiterating the charge that ISI had clear links with militants targeting coalition troops in Afghanistan, Washington has been forced to play ball with the agency because of the Afghan imbroglio.

"ISIs greatest accomplishment is of maintaining a certain level of trust with the Americans despite indulging in several adverse activities, many of which have come out into the open. That is a tremendous achievement. The question now is if the American threshold has been crossed. Given their need to pull out of Afghanistan, it doesnt look like so," says Doval

A day after the world woke up to discover the biggest terrorist in the world had been taken out by the Americans, Kashmir still hasn't made up its mind on what to say. Nobody came out on the streets, no slogans chanted in Osama's glory, but nor has it reacted with relief.

The only Kashmiri with clarity is Syed Ali Shah Geelani. "Osama was a shaheed, he died defending Muslims, a symbol of resistance against US oppression," he said on Tuesday.

His endorsement puts him in the select list of Laden fans like the al Qaida, the Taliban, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Centerstage in Kashmir on Day Two are conspiracy stories. "Why bury him this quickly, to escape potential postmortem findings?" asked a Srinagar resident, voicing doubts whether the US got the right man.

Many also believe he "died like a lion, standing up to America and Israel".

Another conspiracy theory in currency is Osama was a CIA agent and had been in custody of the Americans all along. Now Barack Obama needs to get reelected so Osama was flown in on a helicopter, the firefight stage managed and all this is just a Hollywood-type propaganda stunt.

The only thing that people here are unanimous about is that this is bad news for Pakistan. "Kapade utar gaye Pakistan ke," said a local businessman.

A vast majority of Pakistan's military leadership is unhappy about the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden and fears that America will conduct similar raids in the future to target the country's nuclear arsenal.

An assessment made by Indian agencies suggests that almost three-fourths of the Pakistani military brass is concerned about the way American helicopters crossed into Pakistani territory, carried out a surgical strike and left without informing either the Pakistani government or security establishment, Indian government sources said.

The finding, shared with leaders of the Indian government, is significant because of the deep ties Pakistan military has had with its American counterparts – a partnership forged in the Cold War and strengthened during the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which enabled Islamabad to extract generous assistance from the US.

"Only a minority (in the Pakistani military leadership) believes what the Americans have accomplished is admirable," a source said. According to this minority view, it was a necessary operation and US was well within its right to do it. "We know of such opinions, but over the coming days, this view could get further marginalized," the source said.
Across the board, the Pakistani military leadership is worried about the repercussions of the American operation.

US President Obama and his national security team spent hairy moments in the White House Situation Room on Sunday worrying among other things that Pakistan would mistake the Osama-specific American commando raid on Abbottabad for an Indian attack.

In fact, a top US official disclosed in a briefing on Monday that the Pakistanis even scrambled their jets when they realized something was afoot in Abbottabad, but the US commandos finished their operation in 40 minutes and were out of there before the Pakistanis acted.

''The Pakistanis were reacting to an incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad. Therefore, they were scrambling some of their assets,'' US counterterrorism czar John Brennan revealed while providing some operational details of the mission. It was not clear if the ''assets'' Brennan referred to included just fighter jets or other options ranging from anti-aircraft fire to missiles.

Brennan disclosed that the US was ''concerned that if the Pakistanis decided to scramble jets or whatever else... They had no idea about who might have been in there, whether it be US or somebody else,'' in what was an implicit reference to India. ''So we were watching and making sure that our people and our aircraft were able to get out of Pakistani airspace. And thankfully, there was no engagement with Pakistani forces," he added.

Washington did not keep any country, including India and much less Pakistan, in the loop about the operation.

Brennan also addressed one of the key questions that arose from the episode: Why didn't the US use a Drone attack, as it does in Waziristan, instead of opting for a more dangerous commando ingress deep inside Pakistan and so close to its capital?

The answer it turns out is that President Obama wanted to be absolutely sure it was Osama bin Laden they were getting. A Drone attack or a heavy duty bombing raid would have reduced the compound to rubble, but there would be no way of knowing if it was bin Laden who died in the attack. Such a raid would also give Pakistan a chance to cover up its tracks.

Besides, Brennan said, the US had even hoped to capture bin Laden alive if possible. ''If we had the opportunity to take bin Laden alive, if he didn't present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that. We had discussed that extensively in a number of meetings in the White House and with the President,'' Brennan said. ''The concern was that bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did. He, therefore, was killed in that firefight.''

While Brennan and other officials provided some sketchy operational facts, they chose to keep much of it under wraps so as to not fully disclose American capabilities. For instance, questions about whether the US fully paralysed Pakistani air space during the nearly four-hour long operation from the time of the helicopter ingress into Pakistan to its safe exit, remained unanswered.

While US sources said the Navy Seals team took off from Jalalabad in Afghanistan, some 200 kms from Abbottabad, the Pakistani media insisted a team came from Ghazi Air Force Base near the village of Tarbela Ghazi in Pakistan, where the US is said to maintain a small team of special ops trainers. Ghazi also serves as the main logistics hub for US aid missions to Pakistan.

The Obama administration appears keen on not letting it be known that it has significant capabilities inside Pakistan (which the Pakistani military and ISI is now trying to whittle down), and not to jeopardize its civilian outreach there, just as Islamabad is anxious not to let on that it has given up operation discretion to the Americans and its talk of sovereignty is just lip service.

It is possible that the US teams came from both places with Seals from Jalalabad being supported by CIA operatives from Ghazi. The estimates for what President Obama initially described as a ''small team'' now ranges from 24 Navy Seals who took part in the actual assault, to a larger estimate of 79, including those who provided the logistical support and air cover.

However one dices the operation, it was a daring ingress deep inside Pakistan that made mockery of its military's pledge that it will not tolerate foreign operations inside its territory even as it restored American pride in its capabiliteis.

As for President Obama, the US, White House spokesman Jay Carney prefaced Brennan's briefing by reading his (Obama's) campaign promise: ''If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will. We must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.''

He lived up to his pledge.

In the aftermath of the raid on Abbottabad, all the big questions need to be answered by Pakistan. The old flim-flam ("Who, us? We knew nothing!") just isn't going to wash,'' Rushdie said in a commentary on Monday. ''If it does not provide those answers, perhaps the time has come to declare it a terrorist state and expel it from the comity of nations.''

Few analysts lent any credence to Pakistan's plea that it was unaware that Osama bin Laden was ''hiding in plain sight'' just down the road from a military academy in a Pakistani cantonment. US counterterrorism czar John Brennan almost sneered at the idea, suggesting it was scarcely believable that bin Laden could have lived there for five years without support.

''We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long, and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there,'' Brennan said. ''We are talking with the Pakistanis on a regular basis now, and we're going to pursue all leads to find out exactly what type of support system and benefactors that bin Laden might have had.''

The implication of Pakistani complicity drove Islamabad's ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani to TV studios to plead his countrys innocence. ''Obviously bin Laden did have a support system, the issue is was that support system within the government and the state of Pakistan or within the society of Pakistan?'' Haqqani asked on CNN. ''We all know that there are people in Pakistan who share the same belief system and other extremists. So that is a fact that there are people who probably protected him.''

But what he found ''incredulous',' he said, ''is the notion that somehow, just because there is a private support network in Pakistan, the state, the government and the military of Pakistan shouldn't be believed."

However, Brennan's refusal to give Pakistan a clean chit dictated the discourse the rest of the way with the onus on Pakistan to prove its innocence. In part, this is because of the open espousal by some of its analysts of terror (or "assymmetric warfare") as a policy option and its shielding of terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed even as he threatened reprisals for Osama's death.

Several US lawmakers on Monday demanded a tougher American line on the one-time ally, wanting either a freeze, cuts or tougher conditions on the nearly $3 billion a year that Washington gives Pakistan.

"Pakistan at times is playing a double game," said Republican Senator Susan Collins, a Senate Armed Services Committee member who indicated that Congress could put limits on funds for Pakistan. Dianne Feinstein, her colleague from across the aisle and across the country said, "To make contributions to a country that isn't going to be fully supportive is a problem for many."

US forces finally found al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden not in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan's border, but in a million-dollar compound in an upscale suburb of Pakistan's capital, with his youngest wife, US officials said early on Monday.

They were led to the fortress-like three-story building after more than four years tracking one of bin Laden's most trusted couriers, whom US officials said was identified by men captured after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al-Qaida couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden," a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters.

Bin Laden was finally found -- more than 9-1/2 years after the 2001 attacks on the United States -- after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building, officials said.

"When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound," a senior administration official said.

"The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden," another administration official said.

The home is in Abbotabad, a town about 35 miles (60 km) north of Islamabad, that is relatively affluent and home to many retired members of Pakistan's military.

The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. When it was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Abbotabad's center, at the end of a dirt road, but some other homes have been built nearby in the six years since it went up, officials said.

WALLS TOPPED WITH BARBED WIRE Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot (3.6 meters to 5.5 meters) outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said. Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash, rather than leaving it for collection as did their neighbors, officials said.

Few windows of the three-story home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot (2.1 meter) privacy wall, officials said.

"It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it," an administration official said. "The brothers had no explainable source of wealth."

US analysts realized that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives -- including his youngest wife -- they believed would be living with bin Laden.

"Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers' background and their behavior and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden's hide-out to look like," another Obama administration official said.

A small US team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound on Sunday afternoon, officials said. After 40 minutes of fighting, bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men -- identified as the courier and his brother -- were dead, officials said, and Obama was preparing a television address to the nation.

ust hours after American Navy Seals shot dead Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan on Sunday, US President Barack Obama shot down the Pakistani security establishment's attempt to claim joint credit for the operation.

In a ten-minute television address, Obama left no doubt that US personnel alone were involved in the action that brought bin Laden to justice. ''Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan,'' Obama said, adding, ''A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability.''

While Obama said ''It's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,'' he made no mention of any Pakistani military role in the operation. US officials in background briefing made it clear that no country, much less Pakistan, was informed of the operation.

In fact, there was not even a word of thanks for Pakistan. Instead, Obama said: ''Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al-Qaida and its affiliates.''

The finger of suspicion is now pointing squarely at the Pakistani military and intelligence for sheltering and protecting Osama bin Laden before US forces hunted him down and put a bullet in his head in the wee hours of Sunday. The coordinates of the action and sequence of events indicate that the al-Qaida fugitive may have been killed in an ISI safehouse.

US analysts uniformly suggested that the Pakistani security establishment's claim of a role in the operation is clearly aimed at ducking charges of its military's possible role in hiding bin Laden. ''This is hugely embarrassing for Pakistan,'' was a common refrain on US TV channels throughout the night.

In fact, top US officials have openly suggested for months that the Pakistani military establishment was hiding bin Laden. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came closest to publicly exposing Pakistan's role last May when she accused some government officials there of harboring Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar.

''I am not saying they are at the highest level...but I believe somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Taliban are,'' Clinton said on May 10 last year, adding, ''We expect more cooperation (from Pakistan) to help us bring to justice capture or kill those who brought us 9/11.''

Taken together with President Obama's pointed reference to President Zardari and leaving out any mention of Pakistani forces' involvement, it would seem that Washington believes that Pakistan's military intelligence establishment, including the ISI, was sheltering bin Laden. The ISI was accused as recently as last week by the top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen of having terrorist links, and named as a terrorist support entity by US officials, according to the Guantanamo cables.

Lending credence to the charges is the fact that US forces homed in on bin Laden in Abbottabad, which is a cantonment just 50 kms from Islamabad, where the Pakistani military has a strong presence. The place where bin Laden was killed is only kilometers from the Kakul military academy, where many Pakistani military elites, including some of its ISI cadres, graduate from.

While US officials are tightlipped about precise details, analysts are trying to figure out whether the compound that sheltered bin Laden was an ISI safehouse. There is also speculation as to whether Hillary Clinton was referring to this when she made her pointed remarks last May.

US officials have said for years that they believed bin Laden escaped to Pakistan after the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan. But Pakistani officials, including its former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, insisted that he was in Afghanistan, even as Afghan officials would angrily refute it and say he is in Pakistan. In the end, the Americans and Afghans were right on the money.

A large mansion in a massive compound with 12 feet to 18 feet tall walls topped with barbed wire. No telephone or internet connection to the house. And seldom seen residents who burnt their trash rather than dispose it as other neighbors did.

These were the slender leads that eventually took US spooks and seals to the world's most wanted fugitive. Osama bin Laden lived not in a cave in some frontier mountain redoubt, but in a suburban neighborhood in a million-strong city just an hour's drive from Islamabad, right under the eyes of the Pakistani military.

No one is particularly surprised about this. In fact, going by the track record of major al-Qaida and Taliban operatives captured so far, it would seem that images of them hiding in caves are overblown. Most of them have been captured in Pakistani cities -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Mullah Biradhar in Karachi, and other operatives in places like Faisalabad and Multan. It would seem the terrorists like their comfort -- or at least they are kept in comfort.

Details of how the US homed in on bin Laden are still sketchy, but this much is known based on what President Obama himself said and background briefing by officials.

Right from the moment he took office, Obama resolved to hunt down bin Laden, a goal that his predecessor Bush (who once suggested he did not want to personalize the bin Laden hunt) appeared to have taken his eyes off from. The new President called in the CIA chief and told him to devote whatever resources were needed to nail bin Laden, even as he shifted the focus from the war on Iraq to the Af-Pak theater.

Last August or September, the CIA team tasked with the bin Laden hunt succeeded in developing leads obtained from a Guantanamo detainee four years ago about two brothers who had acted as couriers for bin Laden. It took several months to establish their identity and then their coordinates. U.S officials said this was because of ''extensive operational security on their part,'' but added that ''the fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.''

In August 2010, the U.S team got to know with some degree of certainty that they were in Abbottabad, a military cantonment 60 kms north of Islamabad, where they had built a house in an ''extraordinarily unique compound.'' The design of the compound and the mansion, and the activities surrounding it, indicated it held someone important.

"Intelligence analysts concluded that this compound was custom built to hide someone of significance. We soon learned that more people were living at the compound than the two brothers and their families,'' one U.S official explained. ''Our best assessment, based on a large body of reporting from multiple sources, was that bin Laden was living there with several family members, including his youngest wife.''

"Everything we saw -- the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers' background and their behavior, and the location and the design of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected bin Laden's hideout to look like,'' the official added.

Between March 14 and April 28, President Obama held five national security meetings with his top aides to decide on how to approach the problem at a time ties with Pakistan were at all all-time low because of the Raymond Davis episode. The incident made it all the more dicey to employ American forces for an airborne attack, particularly given past U.S experience in Iran and Somalia, and the Pakistani military's virulent response to any suggestion of U.S ground action inside Pakistan, much less at the doors of a military cantonment.

Still, Obama gave the go-ahead for the operation over the weekend. Three US choppers carrying elite Navy Seals were deployed on Saturday night/Sunday early a.m. No Pakistani personnel were involved.

Although the operation lasted just 40 minutes, U.S officials acknowledged the team ran into resistance. Bin Laden, who was living in the compound with his eldest son and his youngest wife, himself fought before being shot in the head in the firefight. The two couriers who were also with him also died, as did his son and another woman who was used as a human shield. Two other women in the compound, which also had children, were wounded. It is not clear if his wife survived.

There were other mishaps. A U.S chopper involved in the attack developed a malfunction at some point and crashed in the neighborhood. This was reported in the Pakistani media several hours before news of bin Laden's death emerged, with no mention of American involvement or the hunt for bin Laden. Pakistani officials had shut down the area and kept out the media on orders from the U.S.

Only in the morning in Pakistan, when the wreckage from the chopper (which the U.S reportedly destroyed) was cleared, did the story emerge that the smoldering house in the Abbotabad suburb had hosted Osama bin Laden. He has been shot and killed by U.S forces, who had even taken away his body from Pakistan.

David Headley aka Daood Gilani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, the two Pakistani expat foot soldiers who allegedly planned and conducted the Mumbai recce before the 26/11 terrorist carnage have implicated the Pakistani government and its intelligence agency ISI in the ghastly attack.

In court documents that have surfaced ahead of his upcoming trial in Chicago, Rana says his acts of providing material support to terrorists in the Mumbai attacks as alleged by US prosecutors ''were done at the behest of the Pakistani government and the ISI, not the Lashkar terrorist organization.'' The documents also cite Rana invoking his friend David Headley's Grand Jury testimony in which the latter too implicates ISI.

The startling disclosures, which forms part of Rana's defense, came even as ISI chief Shuja Pasha is visiting Washington DC with a laundry list of demands as the US tries to repair ties which have been severely damaged by the Raymond Davis episode. The US effort comes despite growing disquiet about ISI's role in fomenting terrorism. Still, the Obama administration is scrambling to control fallout from the court proceedings in an effort to save its ally from being publicly exposed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The latest legal developments are not helping; in fact, they come at an embarrassing time for both sides.

The disclosure that Rana and Headley are implicating the Pakistani government and its intelligence agency in the Mumbai attack came about indirectly when an Illinois district court rejected Rana's attempt at what is known as a ''Public Authority Defense,'' in which the defendant essentially argues that he did something at the behest of a government or its official authority.

Proposing such a defense, Rana told the Illinois court that ''he acted pursuant to his actual or believed exercise of public authority on behalf of the government of Pakistan and the ISI.'' This defense, Rana argued audaciously, would give him immunity from criminal proceedings in United States courts under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act because ''the ISI has authority to act in India to protect Pakistan's national interests'' and he was acting at the behest of the ISI.

While noting Rana's argument ''that he is entitled to a public authority defense because he acted under the authority — whether actual or apparent — of the Pakistani government and the ISI,'' the court rejected the defense saying, ''Defendant cannot rely on the authority of a foreign government agency or official to authorize his violations of United States federal law.''

While the court rejected Rana's attempted defense on technical grounds, his implicating of the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies strengthens the widely held view in India and elsewhere that Islamabad's reluctance to act against the perpetrators of attack points to official patronage of terrorism.

''Mr. Rana's trial threatens to lend an aura of credence to the suspicions of ISI complicity,'' Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper, which first reported the legal development, observed in an article (Rana is a Canadian citizen).

In its memorandum opinion and order, the court noted that Rana was citing David Headley's grand jury testimony in his attempt at Public Authority defense. According to the court document, Headley's testimony before the grand jury included disclosure of his meetings with Sajid and others in Lashkar. ''I also told him (the defendant Rana) about my meetings with Major Iqbal, and told him how I had been asked to perform espionage work for ISI," Headley says in his testimony.

However, in its order, the court rejected Rana's plea to subpoena the FBI and the State Department for ''any and all . . . cables originating from or transmitted to India, Pakistan or the United States,'' regarding the Mumbai attack and ''any connections between the ISI and Lashkar e Tayyiba.'' It said the defendant ''impermissibly uses the subpoenas as discovery tools, and his requests are more akin to fishing expeditions than requests for specific documents.''

The US has linked sovereign immunity for ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha in a lawsuit filed by relatives of victims of the Mumbai attacks in a Brooklyn court to the diplomatic immunity for an American arrested for the Lahore double murder, a media report said.

The US administration "appears willing to claim sovereign immunity for the ISI chief in this case provided Pakistan also granted diplomatic immunity to Mr (Raymond) Davis, who is a CIA contractor ," Dawn newspaper quoted unnamed sources as saying.

"At one stage, the Americans were going to file papers in the court, stating that the ISI chief enjoyed sovereign immunity but decided not to do so after Mr Davis' arrest," an official source told the daily.

The court in Brooklyn has accepted the petition against the ISI chief for the agency's alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the report said. The arrest of another alleged CIA operative in Peshawar for over-staying his visa has further annoyed the Americans, who pointed out that more than 100,000 Pakistanis were living in the US after the expiry of their visas, it said.

The Americans seem willing to discuss Islamabad's demand for sharing information on the CIA's activities in Pakistan "provided the Pakistanis also shared relevant information ," the source said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Wednesday mounted a defence of Pakistan's ISI in the wake of reports that the US had listed it as a terrorist support organisation, saying the spy agency had the backing of his government for all actions.

"Wrong propaganda is being floated about intelligence agencies through newspapers. I want to tell them that the intelligence agencies are under the Pakistan government," Gilani said at an official function on the outskirts of Islamabad.

He contended that intelligence agencies, including the powerful ISI, function under the directives of the government.

"And without the government, they can't do anything that goes against national interests. If the ISI has done something, they had our backing and we are with them," he said.

Gilani's remarks came in the wake of a warning by Admiral Mike Mullen, America's top military official, that the ISI's long-standing ties with the Haqqani militant network are at the core of US's strained and problematic relations with the Pakistan.

Secret documents leaked by WikiLeaks showed that the US military categorised the ISI along with al-Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami as terrorist or terrorist support groups.

The ISI was listed along with the terror groups in a document provided to officials who assessed terror suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay.

The revelation came at a time when ties between Pakistani and American spy agencies have hit a new low following the arrest in January of CIA contractor Raymond Davis for gunning down two Pakistani men in January.

Davis was pardoned and freed by a court after over two million dollars was paid as "blood money" under Islamic laws to the families of the dead men but ties between the ISI and the CIA are yet to be restored to an even keel.

Pakistan has also strongly opposed attacks by CIA-operated drones in its tribal belt, described by American officials as a haven for Taliban and al-Qaida elements.

Pakistan on Wednesday said the world must share the blame for failing to unearth Osama bin Laden as a furore swelled over how the slain al-Qaida kingpin had managed to live undisturbed near Islamabad.

Following the killing of bin Laden by US commandos in a raid on his sprawling villa, Washington revealed that Pakistan was kept in the dark to avoid tipping off the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A Pakistani intelligence official said one of bin Laden's children, now in custody with a Yemeni wife of the al-Qaida leader, saw her father shot dead.

The Saudi-born extremist was unarmed when he was killed early Monday, the White House revealed, fuelling speculation that the elite Navy SEAL team was under orders to kill rather than capture him.

His daughter, reported to be 12 years old, "was the one who confirmed to us that Osama was dead and shot and taken away," said the Pakistani official.

US officials, meanwhile, debated whether to scotch conspiracy theories by releasing a "gruesome" photo of the dead bin Laden, conscious that such an image would likely inflame strong passions in some Muslim countries.

Pakistan is smarting after it emerged that bin Laden had been tracked down and killed not in the mountainous caves of the Afghan border but in a purpose-built residential compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

The government of the nuclear-armed nation, insisting in the face of Western incredulity that it does not provide safe haven for militants, is angrily stressing its status as the victim of countless bloody attacks.

On the revelation that bin Laden was living less than two hours' drive north of the capital, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said: "Certainly, we have intelligence failure of the rest of the world including the United States.

"There is intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone," he told reporters during a visit to Paris.

Pakistan needed "the support of the entire world" to eradicate terrorism, Gilani added.

"We are fighting and paying a heavy price to combat terrorism and extremism... fighting not only for Pakistan but for the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world."

But unusually frank remarks from the CIA chief betrayed the extent of distrust between the United States and Pakistan, a problematic ally in the war against the resurgent Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission," Leon Panetta told Time magazine. "They might alert the targets."

Outraged US lawmakers are calling for billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan to be cut back or scrapped entirely, while several governments in Europe say Islamabad has pressing questions to answer.

Pakistani intelligence officials said agents raided the bin Laden compound in 2003 when it was still being built, looking for then al-Qaida number three Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who escaped and was eventually captured two years later.

They said the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had no idea bin Laden was later holed up in the compound in Abbottabad, which is home to Pakistan's equivalent of the West Point and Sandhurst military academies.

But Salman Bashir, the top civil servant in Pakistan's foreign ministry, told the BBC Wednesday that the ISI had in fact alerted the United States to its suspicions about the imposing compound "as far back as 2009".

But it was not known at the time that bin Laden was sheltering there and there were "millions" of other suspect locations, the foreign secretary acknowledged.

Bashir also said that Panetta's remarks were "disquieting" as he underlined the "pivotal role" played by Pakistan in fighting terror.

The White House gave the fullest account yet of the dramatic helicopter-borne raid that killed the architect of the 9/11 attacks in the dead of night and sparked scenes of relief and joy around the Western world.

"In the room with bin Laden, a woman -- bin Laden's wife -- rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

When pressed further, Carney said there had been significant resistance, a "volatile firefight", and insisted: "We were prepared to capture him if that was possible."

In Pakistan itself, conspiracy theories have proliferated after bin Laden's body was buried at sea off a US warship to forestall the prospect of a grave on land becoming an extremist shrine.

About 70 lawyers staged a rally in Abbottabad, condemning the US operation in their city, witnesses said.

They shouted "Go, America go", "Osama bin Laden is our hero" and chanted slogans against the US-allied and deeply fractured Pakistani government.

Police on Wednesday sealed off the Bilal suburb of the city, after crowds and the media had gathered outside the bin Laden compound's towering outer walls.

"More than 300 armed policemen have been deployed at the entry points, as well as in the town and close to the house, for security reasons," a local police official said.

Residents returning to their houses were body-searched and their ID cards checked, with some labourers prevented from going to work in the area, an AFP reporter said.

Dozens of Pakistani youths had demonstrated outside the house on Tuesday, mocking America and shouting "Osama is alive!"

US analysts were scouring documents and computer files seized from the hideout for evidence after top counter-terrorism official John Brennan said it was "inconceivable" bin Laden did not enjoy some kind of support network in Pakistan.

For a decade, Islamabad has been America's wary Afghan war ally, despite widespread public opposition and militant bomb attacks across the country that have killed several thousand people.

But Pakistan has never been fully trusted by either Kabul or Washington. It stands accused of fostering the Afghan Taliban, and before that extremists such as bin Laden who took up arms against Afghanistan's 1980s Soviet occupiers.

With Pakistan's main Taliban faction and jihadist websites vowing vengeance for bin Laden, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the threat of reprisal attacks was real.

"Threats are everywhere and we can indeed fear that France will, like the United States and other friendly countries, be the target of reprisals and desire for vengeance," Gueant said on RTL radio.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Pakistan to make progress in the battle against terrorism.

"We have encouraged the Pakistani authorities to reinforce the fight against terrorists and extremists, in particular in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region," he told a news conference in Brussels.

Iranian defence minister Ahmad Vahidi said the killing amounted to a "big failure" for Washington while a leader of al-Qaida's branch in restive southern Yemen vowed the group would "take revenge for the death of our Sheikh Osama bin Laden and we will prove this to the enemies of God."

US officials say DNA tests have proven conclusively that the man shot above the eye was indeed the al-Qaeda leader who boasted about the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the September 11 attacks.

But they are also mulling whether to release a photo as proof.

Tags:Pervez Musharraf|Osama bin Laden
After the disbelief, there's some straight talking happening in Pakistan's English media. In an eloquent article, columnist Pervez Hoodbhoy writes in The Express Tribune on Wednesday that "bin Laden was the Golden Goose the army had kept, but to its chagrin, has been stolen from under its nose". He goes on to say, "Even the famous and ferocious General Hamid Gul (retd), a bin Laden sympathiser who advocates war with America, cannot buy into the claim that the military was unaware of bin Ladens whereabouts. In a recorded interview, he remarked that bin Laden being in Abbottabad unknown to authorities is a bit amazing. Aside from the military, he said there is the local police, the Intelligence Bureau, the Military Intelligence, the ISI they all had a presence there. Pakistanis familiar with the intrusive nature of the multiple intelligence agencies will surely agree; to sniff out foreigners is a pushover."

For answers, Hoodbhoy points to General Pervez Musharraf, who was army chief when bin Laden's house in Abbottabad was being constructed in 2005. Writes Hoodbhoy, "(Musharraf) unwittingly gives us the clearest and most cogent explanation. The back cover of his book, In The Line Of Fire, written in 2006, reads: Since shortly after 9/11 when many al Qaeda leaders fled Afghanistan and crossed the border into Pakistan we have played multiple games of cat and mouse with them. The biggest of them all, Osama bin Laden, is still at large at the time of this writing but we have caught many, many others. We have earned bounties totalling millions of dollars."

"So, at the end of the day, it was precisely that: A cat and mouse game. Bin Laden was the Golden Goose that the army had kept under its watch but which, to its chagrin, has now been stolen from under its nose. Until then, the thinking had been to trade in the Goose at the right time for the right price, either in the form of dollars or political concessions. While bin Laden in virtual captivity had little operational value for al Qaeda, he still had enormous iconic value for the Americans."

Hoodbhoy urges change. "It is time to dispense with the Musharraf-era cat and mouse games. We must repudiate the current policy of verbally condemning jihadism and actually fighting it in some places but secretly supporting it in other places."

Editorials across Pakistan's major English dailies are asking the same question: Did the Pakistan government/military/ISI know nothing about the US operation or Osama's presence in Abbottabad? The Express Tribune writes in its editorial on Wednesday, "OBL's death is good for Pakistan in the long run But how and why bin Laden moved to Abbottabad remains a mystery. Whether there was some sort of assurance for his safety in the region is something to probe." It goes on to question, "Who or what provided bin Laden with the feeling of security he needed before settling in Abbottabad?"

But how credible would be an answer, if there were one? What do you believe, is the Dawn's deputy editor Shyema Sajjad's take in `The Great Deceit'. Talking of the faith Americans have in President Obama's words, Sajjad writes, "Did they for a second stop and ask for proof?... Think back to Hakimullah Mehsud ^ Interior Minister Rehman Malik killed him a couple of times; it's only natural for us not to believe anything (from) our leadership. But wait, why don't the Americans think Iraq for a second. WMD anyone?"

The sense of embarrassment is acute. "Those of us stuck here meanwhile, ask questions. Ask why Osama was there, why no one knew, how the US knew, why the state silent, and most of all why do we never cease to disappoint ourselves," Sajjad concludes.

Similarly, The Nation's editorial says, "The (event) vindicates Washingtons claim and declares our country as unreliable which its high ranking officials have been saying at all forums. Also, the absolute silence on the part of the Pakistani government and its military after the conclusion of the operation is disturbing."

In its editorial on Wednesday, The Dawn writes, "He (Osama) and his ideology have exacted a stunning death toll in Pakistan over the last few years. Add to this the way he was killed, and embarrassment turns into deep shame."

The Frontier Post wants citizens to take to the streets in protest. Its editorial titled, `Why are they taking it lying down?', FP clubbed the US raid, terrorist strikes within the nation and repeated factional fights in Karachi to say that "The American raiders of Abbottabad left the nation smarting with humiliation and disgrace" and now Pakistan's civil society must "look to the Arab world protests to guide them. People's mass protests led to the toppling of dictatorial autocracies in Egypt and Tunisia. Many more despotic thrones in the region are now wobbling shakily in the face of this advancing people power. Surely, the harried residents of Karachi can emulate this people movement of the Arab world," it exhorts

Osama bin Laden was unarmed at the time of his killing and his 12-year-old daughter saw her father being shot dead, it was revealed on Wednesday, even as the exact circumstances of the al-Qaida chief's death remained unclear and the White House changed versions.

An Arabic TV station claimed the child had, in fact, said her father was taken prisoner and then shot, in an execution of sorts.

The girl is now in custody with a Yemeni wife of Osama's, an Inter-Services Intelligence ( ISI) official said. Up to 12 women and children who survived the US raid on their villa were now in custody, he said.

The child, reported to be 12 years old, "was the one who confirmed to us that Osama was dead and shot and taken away", said the official.

An Arabic television station went further, saying, "a source in Pakistani security quoted the daughter of Osama bin Laden that the leader of al-Qaida was not killed inside his house, but had been arrested and was killed later".

Four bodies were retrieved from the daring covert attack, including one of bin Laden's sons, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Up to three women and nine children, including the young Yemeni woman who was shot in the leg and a daughter of the Saudi-born mastermind, were in detention, he said.

"There are a lot of questions we want to ask them," another intelligence official said.

Hizbul Mujahedeen, a militant group active in Kashmir, owned the mansion in the scenic town of Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces, a Canadian newspaper has reported, claiming that Pakistan is hushing up the issue of the ownership of the compound.

There are indications emerging that the terror mastermind was sheltered by one of the militant groups that has enjoyed tolerance, if not support, from Pakistani military intelligence services, Globe and Mail reported.

The paper quoted a Pakistani police officer familiar with bin Laden's compound to say the house was used by Hizbul Mujahedeen. The group's chief Syed salahuddin is based in PoK capital Muzaffarabad.

Pakistan has denied any collusion with terrorists, saying that its leading intelligence service had been sharing information with US counterparts since 2009 about the compound where bin Laden was found.

In the wake of the raid, Islamabad scrambled to ensure that precise ownership of the compound would not become public knowledge, the paper said quoting Pakistani officials.

"The place belonged to Hizbul Mujahedeen," the police officer said.

"But the authorities have asked us not to share any information about the exact ownership."

Land-registry officials in Abbottabad, known in the local language as patwaris, were summoned to a meeting on Tuesday and urged to keep quiet.

"The patwaris are meeting right now," a local official said.

"They are being instructed not to say anything about the land-ownership issue."

American officials have described the owners as "brothers", and neighbours recalled seeing a pair of men, possibly ethnic Pashtuns from the rugged western frontier, who largely kept to themselves.

Their names were reported in local media as Bara Khan and Chota Khan, or Arshad Pathan and Chota Pathan.

A Pakistani official said the mystery surrounding the two men has deepened with the discovery that their national identity cards were faked.

Demands grew louder yesterday for an investigation that would determine what support bin Laden received inside Pakistan.

Tags:Osama bin Laden|Amal Al-Sadah
Osama bin Laden's youngest wife, Amal Al-Sadah, 27 was shot in the leg in Monday's raid on the Abbottabad complex where the terror kingpin was in hiding.

Reports say that Osama and those with him in the sprawling three-storey structure were taken by surprise when the Seals descended on them. The al-Qaida chief was sleeping in a baggy salwar suit, reports say.

As the Seals secured the compound and moved into the building, there was confusion and reports say, she shrieked out Osama's name which gave the terror mastermind away in the melee. Early reports had said she was being used as a human shield to protect Osama but later the US establishment came up with a denial of the story. It was later said that one woman had indeed got caught in the crossfire and had died, but she was not Osama's youngest wife.

This unnamed woman could well be the wife of bin Laden's courier, Sheikh Abu Ahmed, who died in the raid. In the new version of the story that White House press secretary Jay Carney gave out, he said: "bin Laden's wife rushed the assaulters and was shot in the leg but not killed."

Al-Sadah was was married to Osama when she was just 17 and fiercely loyal to her husband. Their wedding took place in Afghanistan. Yemen born, the marriage was reportedly arranged to strengthen the al-Qaida chief's links with the Gulf.

Her father was supposed to have been "proud" when he gave her away to the global terror kingpin. But bin Laden sent her back to Yemen out of concern for her safety. Al-Sadah refused to stay home and managed to return despite being under surveillance. She told interrogators that she had been living in the mansion since 2005.

In indications that Osama bin Laden was prepared to flee at short notice, cash totalling 500 euros and two telephone numbers were found sewn into his clothing when he was killed by US commandos deep inside Pakistan on Sunday.

US media reported that this information was given by top intelligence officials to members of the Congress at a classified briefing at which CIA director Leon Panetta was present.

Another US media report said the American troops that swooped on bin Laden's compound at Abbottabad may have laid their hands on the "largest potential intelligence coup of the post-9/11 era".

The Navy Seals, which conducted the 40-minute operation, carried off five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 storage devices and removable flash drives, the Wall Street Journal said.

A CIA task force, which has already conducted a preliminary analysis of the material, is hunting for leads on the location of the slain al-Qaida leader's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is widely expected to ascend to the top of the outfit.

US publication 'Politico', quoting sources who attended Panetta's briefing, reported that the CIA chief told lawmakers about the items found in bin Laden's clothing in response to a question about why he wasn't guarded by more security personnel at his home in Abbottabad.

The answer, according to one source, bin Laden believed that "his network was strong enough to give him a heads-up" before any US strike.

The evidence of cash, which amounts to $740 and phone numbers was divulged to support the US administration's belief that bin Laden was prepared to escape the compound if alerted to an impending attack.

They thought the house belonged to a drug-dealer, or perhaps a smuggler, and local people had learned to leave it well alone. When the milkman delivered he did not even ring the bell but simply left it outside the green double gates. If anyone ever stopped and leaned against the wall someone would emerge and tell them to clear off. Cricket-playing children who exuberantly hit their shots over the compound's high, barbed-wire topped walls were given money to go the local shop, but they were never allowed inside to retrieve their ball.

"There was a rumour that the person living there was a smuggler from Peshawar," said Hussain Jaffri, a resident of the Thanda Choha neighbourhood of Abbottabad, and whose house overlooked the compound occupied by Osama bin Laden. "In this area, when there is a large house you know it's black money, perhaps from white powder."

Amid the dusty lanes and neatly-planted fields where Bin Laden's unwitting neighbours lived and worked, a picture emerged on Tuesday of a close-knit community that was suspicious about the occupants of the three-storey compound and yet who, for whatever reason, chose to make no further inquiries.

"When there is a rumour like this, you don't want to go and knock on the door," Jaffri said.

Locals said the occupants of the compound, replete with a poplar and peach trees, had minimal interaction with their neighbours. They did not celebrate national or religious holidays, they did not pass the time of day with other people and they had few dealings with traders. One occupant, said to be called Nadeem, left the compound every day in a red Suzuki minivan to collect supplies. Every day he returned with a goat, presumably for slaughter. No one said they had ever caught a glimpse of the 54-year-old Saudi fugitive, said to have lived on the upper two floors.

"It was a rich person's house. Only a rich person could afford a house like that. Only that house had the high walls," said Tanvir Ahmed, who runs an ice-cream shop. The compound had been designed as if discouraging curious eyes was a top priority. In addition to the high walls, gaps in the brickwork that could have allowed a view inside were cemented shut. A window opening onto the street was also filled in.

Yet by far the most remarkable thing about the property was its location. Less than half a mile away stands the Kakul military academy. Closer still — less than 100 yards from the compound's — is the house of Major Amir Aziz, an officer believed to be serving with the army's medical corps. Locals said Aziz had lived there for many years and that his father had occupied the property before that. On Tuesday no one answered the door when The Independent knocked, though young children could be seen inside.

The man who inspired thousands of impressionable Muslim teenagers across the world to sign up for the cause of jihad did not want his own kids to go down the road he had claimed led to heaven, according to an Arabicnewspaper.

Kuwait's Al Anba newspaper published what it claimed were the contents of a will left by Osama bin Laden that contained a message for his children. The daily said it was written on December 14, 2001, when he was on the run from the US in Afghanistan.

In the document, bin Laden takes credit for most of his achievements in terrorism, culminating in the 9/11 attacks. He also orders his wives not to re-marry after he's dead. Then there is the message for his children not to join al-Qaida or the front in the war against the West. Instead, he expresses regret to his children for not having spent enough time with them because he was too busy working at his jihad.

Other details trickling out two days after US soldiers killed him, say that he had hidden 500 euros and several phone numbers stitched into his clothes, leading to the conclusion that he did fear an attack on his Abbottabad hideout.

There were multiple versions about where he was shot with many Arabic newspapers dismissing the official US line that he was killed in a firefight but he was unarmed. Alarabiya newspaper, for example, quoted his 12-year-old daughter as saying that Osama was shot on the ground floor of the house and his body was dragged to a waiting helicopter.

The daily also said that the 13-room house, inside which reporters were still not being allowed, had two buffaloes, a cow and around 150 hens.

The approval rating of US President Barack Obama has jumped by a whopping 11 per cent since the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden, according to a latest opinion poll.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 57 per cent of Americans generally approve of Obama in the wake of the raid deep inside Pakistan that killed Osama on Monday.

Two weeks ago his overall approval rating was at 46 per cent.

A whopping 85 per cent of those polled gave Obama high marks for his handling of the operation to find bin Laden, the poll said.

In a CBS News Poll conducted in December 2003, just after the US military captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the then President George W Bush received a 60 per cent approval rating -- a jump of about six percentage points.

But it was short-lived, and his poll numbers never reached that height again, CBS News said.

The poll also revealed that approval ratings for Obama's handling of the threat of terrorism, the war in Afghanistan, and foreign policy in general have increased in the wake of bin Laden's death.

A significant 72 per cent of Americans (including 53 per cent of Republicans) approve of Obama's handling of terrorism, his highest rating on the issue since talking office.

In last month's poll, only 39 per cent approved of Obama's handling of foreign policy -- his lowest rating to date. Now, 52 per cent say they approve, CBS said.

"This shows that the president was not only ready to act, but had his eye on the ball," said CBS News political analyst John Dickerson, and that could deprive Republican opponents of a key weapon used to attack Obama in the past -- a perceived lack of gravitas in dealing with defense issues.

The Gallup polls said that Obama's approval rating has jumped by eight per cent.

However, the polls reflect that the approval rating on Obama's economic policy has gone down.

Pakistan was lucky not to have intervened in Sunday night's US military operation to kill Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as Americans had armed jets on standby in Afghanistan to respond massively, says a media report here.

"Pakistan might have gotten very, very lucky on Sunday'' as the US would have responded massively to its interference in the operation to take out the world's most wanted terrorist, the National Post newspaper said here.

"Given the importance of extracting bin Laden's body for examination and the obvious desire of the US to protect its special forces is that, yes, America would have shot down any Pakistani jet that attempted to intervene in the operation,'' the paper said.

"They (Americans) were likely gambling that they would be in and out of Pakistan before a battle became necessary, or perhaps they were able to impress upon the Pakistani civilian leadership the extreme consequences that would ensue if Pakistan's fighters interfered in the operation.''

The paper said Pakistan would have been entirely within its legal rights to fire on any unauthorized foreign military forces operating over their territory.

"Abbottabad isn't some backwater, lawless tribal area, but by all reports an affluent city. American military forces were operating there without permission. It's easy to foresee that the Pakistanis would have felt entirely justified in firing on them.''

But from the Pentagon's perspective, the paper said, "they (Americans) would have been ready for it... Pakistan might have gotten very, very lucky on Sunday.''

The paper said "there seems to be growing consensus that Pakistan was informed of the operation (only) as it got under way, not consulted in advance - and certainly not asked permission.

"This is important, because the Pakistani military is quite powerful and advanced, and would be capable of responding to a foreign military incursion if it so chose.''

The paper said Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters used by US Navy SEALs to carry out the raid would have been "easy prey for any Pakistani fighter jet that the Americans detected approaching bin Laden's compound, or that tried to pursue the helicopters as they returned to Afghanistan.

"Therefore assume that the Americans had some forces on standby to protect their SEALs and helicopters, which probably means armed fighter jets loitering inside Afghanistan, ready to cross into Pakistan with cannons and missiles blazing - if necessary.''

The paper also quoted John O. Brennan, Obama's counter-terrorism advisor, who said Monday that "thankfully there was no engagement with Pakistani forces.'

US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said Pakistan needed to do more to rein in terrorist outfits and show results on the 26/11 trial. He also indicated that Capitol Hill would take a hard look at its aid to Pakistan and see if it was being utilised properly.

"Pakistan needs to do more... They (Pakistanis) need to show progress and results on the Mumbai trial," Roemer, who has already put in his papers and will be moving back to the US, told reporters here on Wednesday.

Training his guns against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the outfit behind 26/11 attacks, the envoy said the US government was keen to see that LeT leader Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, undergoing trial in Pakistan for his role in the Mumbai attacks, remains behind bars.

"We continue to encourage Pakistan to show results in Mumbai trials, to take on Lashkar-e-Taiba as a terrorist group, and to make sure people like Lakhvi stay in prison," Roemer said.

Roemer's observations come barely a couple of days after top al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was gunned down by US Navy Seals in a mansion at the Pakistani military garrison town of Abbottabad. The location of Osama's hideout, a stone throw's away from Pak's military academy, has raised several eyebrows, with even the US describing as "inconceivable" that the Pakistanis were unaware of his hideout.

Roemer also indicated that the primary tasks for the US administration over the next week would be to take "a hard look at the assistance" to Pakistan and judge if it was being used for counter-terrorism.

Besides, Capitol Hill will also be in talks with Pakistan on Osama's being discovered just outside of Islamabad.

"We remember Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was discovered inside Rawalpindi back in 2003, this is a concern...Congress will ask tough questions and go to the bottom," he said. Yet, the US envoy underlined that Pakistan was helping Americans not only to degrade al-Qaeda, but also to go after groups like LeT.

"We would not have got Osama bin Laden had it not been for some of the co-operation that Pakistan extends to the United States," he noted.

The killing of Osama in the middle of Pakistan was underlined by New Delhi on Monday as a vindication of its claim that Islamabad offered a safe haven for terrorists and fugitives.

Roemer, who termed the growing co-operation between US and India as a "historic period" in bilateral ties, said the two nations had entered into a bilateral security partnership to curtail militancy thriving in the restive region.

"I would also like to say with respect to India, that for the past two years, under the President's vision and leadership, and with the strong support from Dr Manmohan Singh , the United States and India have entered into a security partnership where we have worked together to share David Headley (co-conspirator of the Mumbai attacks), to share intelligence on a daily basis, no matter what the threat might be, whether it was during the Commonwealth Games or the World Cup," he said.

"We are sharing best practices and we have entered into a historic period between the United States and India in counter-terrorism co-operation, security partnership and as global relationship to take on groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba," the envoy added.

The latest document dump from Wiki-Leaks has pointed to the role of Pakistan's ISI in sheltering Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's terror merchants in Pakistan. The Daily Telegraph, which accessed a US diplomatic dispatch, said General Abdullo Sadulloevich Nazarov, a senior Tajik counter-terrorism official, had told the Americans that many inside Pakistan knew where bin Laden was.

"In Pakistan, Osama bin Laden wasn't an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts , the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces." This could possibly be the reason why Pakistan was not kept on the loop over its operation against Osama in Abbottabad.

The Telegraph said intelligence gathered from detainees at Guantanamo Bay may have also refrained the Americans from sharing their plans with the Pakistani establishment. It said one detainee, Saber Lal Melma, an Afghan whom the US described as a probable facilitator for al-Qaeda , allegedly worked with the ISI to help members flee Afghanistan after the American bombing began in October 2001.

The Guantanamo military file accessed by WikiLeaks said he passed the al-Qaeda Arabs to Pak security forces who then smuggled them across the border into Pakistan . He was overheard "bragging about atime when the ISI sent a military unit into Afghanistan, posing as civilians to fight along side the Taliban against US forces." Saber Lal Melma also allegedly detailed ISI's protection of al-Qaeda members at Pakistan airports.

"ISI members diverted al-Qaeda members through unofficial channels to avoid detection from officials in search of terrorists," the file claims. US diplomats were told that one of the key reasons why they had failed to find Osama was that Pak's security services tipped him off whenever US troops approached . ISI also smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

In 2003 or 2004, Pakistani intelligence agents trailed a suspected militant courier to a house in the picturesque hill town of Abbottabad in northern Pakistan.

There, the agents determined that the courier would make contact with one of the world’s most wanted men, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who had succeeded September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammad as al Qaeda operations chief a few months earlier. Agents from Pakistan’s powerful and mysterious Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as the ISI, raided a house but failed to find al-Libbi, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters this week.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf later wrote in his memoirs that an interrogation of the courier revealed that al-Libbi used three houses in Abbottabad, which sits some 50 km northeast of Islamabad. The intelligence official said that one of those houses may have been in the same compound where on May 1 US special forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

It’s a good story. But is it true? Pakistan’s foreign ministry this week used the earlier operation as evidence of Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against terrorism. You see, Islamabad seemed to be pointing out, we were nabbing bad guys seven years ago in the very neighborhood where you got bin Laden.

But US Department of Defense satellite photos show that in 2004 the site where bin Laden was found this week was nothing but an empty field. A US official briefed on the bin Laden operation told Reuters he had heard nothing to indicate there had been an earlier Pakistani raid.

There are other reasons to puzzle. Pakistan’s foreign ministry says that Abbottabad, home to several military installations, has been under surveillance since 2003. If that’s true, then why didn’t the ISI uncover bin Laden, who US officials say has been living with his family and entourage in a well-guarded compound for years?

The answer to that question goes to the heart of the troubled relationship between Pakistan and the United States. Washington has long believed that Islamabad, and especially the ISI, play a double game on terrorism, saying one thing but doing another.

Marriage Of Convenience

Since 9/11 the United States has relied on Pakistan’s military to fight al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the mountainous badlands along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. President George W. Bush forged a close personal relationship with military leader Musharraf.

But US officials have also grown frustrated with Pakistan. While Islamabad has been instrumental in catching second-tier and lower ranked al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and several operatives identified as al Qaeda “number threes” have either been captured or killed, the topmost leaders – bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy Ayman al Zawahiri — have consistently eluded capture.

The ISI, which backed the Taliban when the group came to power in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s, seemed to turn a blind eye — or perhaps even helped — as Taliban and al-Qaeda members fled into Pakistan during the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, according to US officials.

Washington also believes the agency protected Abdul Qadeer Khan, lionised as the “father” of Pakistan’s bomb, who was arrested in 2004 for selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

And when Kashmiri militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people, New Delhi accused the ISI of controlling and coordinating the strikes. A key militant suspect captured by the Americans later told investigators that ISI officers had helped plan and finance the attack. Pakistan denies any active ISI connection to the Mumbai attacks and often points to the hundreds of troops killed in action against militants as proof of its commitment to fighting terrorism.

But over the past few years Washington has grown increasingly suspicious-and ready to criticize Pakistan. The US military used association with the spy agency as one of the issues they would question Guantanamo Bay prisoners about to see if they had links to militants, according to WikiLeaks documents made available last month to the New York Times.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last July that she believed that Pakistani officials knew where bin Laden was holed up. On a visit to Pakistan just days before the Abbottabad raid, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, accused the ISI of maintaining links with the Taliban.

As the CIA gathered enough evidence to make the case that bin Laden was in Abbottabad, US intelligence chiefs decided that Pakistan should be kept in the dark. When US Navy Seals roped down from helicopters into the compound where bin Laden was hiding, US officials insist, Pakistan’s military and intelligence bosses were blissfully unaware of what was happening in the middle of their country.

Some suspect Pakistan knew more than it’s letting on. But the Pakistani intelligence official, who asked to remain anonymous so that he could speak candidly, told Reuters that the Americans had acted alone and without any Pakistani assistance or permission.

The reality is Washington long ago learned to play its own double game. It works with Islamabad when it can and uses Pakistani assets when it’s useful but is ever more careful about revealing what it’s up to.

“On the one hand, you can’t not deal with the ISI… There definitely is the cooperation between the two agencies in terms of personnel working on joint projects and the day-to-day intelligence sharing,” says Kamran Bokhari, Middle East and South Asia director for global intelligence firm STRATFOR. But “there is this perception on the part of the American officials working with their counterparts in the ISI, there is the likelihood that some of these people might be working with the other side. Or somehow the information we’re sharing could leak out… It’s the issue of perception and suspicion.”

The killing of bin Laden exposes just how dysfunctional the relationship has become. The fact that bin Laden seems to have lived for years in a town an hour’s drive from Islamabad has US congressmen demanding to know why Washington is paying $1 billion a year in aid to Pakistan. Many of the hardest questions are directed at the ISI. Did it know bin Laden was there? Was it helping him? Is it rotten to the core or is it just a few sympathizers?

What’s clear is that the spy agency America must work with in one of the world’s most volatile and dangerous regions remains an enigma to outsiders.

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