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Tuesday, August 09, 2022

The Abbottabad Mystery

How did the Americans find Osama bin Laden — is the question

Written by Khaled Ahmed |
Updated: September 7, 2019 11:40:56 am
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Prime Minister Imran Khan said in Washington in August that Pakistan had informed the US about Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and thought that it was therefore unfair on the part of the US to covertly attack Abbottabad and take out the al Qaeda leader without informing Pakistan.

But an ex-head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) General (retd) Asad Durrani, talking to A S Dulat, India’s former special director of the Intelligence Bureau and former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) from 1999 to 2000, in the book Spy Chronicles (2017), came out with more detail about how the Americans found that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.

“I have no doubt that a retired Pakistani officer who was in intelligence walked in and told the Americans. I won’t take his name because I can’t prove it and also I don’t want to give him any publicity. How much of the 50 million dollars he got, who knows. But he is missing from Pakistan. I should know.”

After this, Major General Asif Ghafoor, director of Inter-Services Public Relation (ISPR) of the media wing of the Pakistan Army, stated: “Lt Gen Asad Durrani, retired, is being called to the GHQ on 28 May 2018. He will be asked to explain his position”. Who was the officer who took “50 million dollars” to sneak on bin Laden? Will his name be forever hidden from the public? Journalist Amir Mir, author of Talibanisation of Pakistan: From 9/11 to 26/11 and Beyond (2010) and The True Face of Jihadis (2006), in his blog, dug out the name too; but even then the discussion will not stop about who informed the US about bin Laden’s house near the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy.

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Mir relied on US Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh “who had claimed on May 10, 2015 that a former Pakistani intelligence official had informed the Americans about the Abbottabad hideout of the Al Qaeda chief”. The Hersh story was published in the London Review of Books and claimed that the May 2, 2011 raid by the US Navy SEALs was planned by the Americans “with full knowledge and cooperation of the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which at that time were headed by General Ashfaq Kayani and Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha”.

Hersh had stated: “In August 2010, a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA station chief at the US Embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find Osama bin Laden in return for the [head money] reward that the United States had offered in 2001. The CIA did not believe him, and the intelligence agency’s headquarters sent out a polygraph team which believed the Pakistani intelligence official only after he had passed the test.”

Amir Mir adds: “The former intelligence official and his family were subsequently smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in Washington [before the Osama hideout was raided]. He [the former Pakistani intelligence official] is now a consultant for the CIA”.


Apart from General Durrani, there was another officer who got into the habit of expressing views that were not liked. Former ISI chief Lt Gen Ziauddin Butt, cashiered abruptly from his job by Army Chief General Musharraf, had got into the habit of making “revealing” statements. American journalist and novelist David Ignatius revealed in 2012 that Butt had stated to him that “the Abbottabad compound was used by Intelligence Bureau” and that a report in the Pakistani press had quoted Butt as saying that bin Laden’s stay at Abbottabad was “arranged by Brigadier (retd) Ijaz Shah, during 2004-2008, on General Pervez Musharraf’s instructions”.

Amir Mir asserts: “Well-informed intelligence circles in…Rawalpindi concede that the vital information about the bin Laden compound was actually provided to the Americans by none other than an ISI official — Brigadier Usman Khalid. The retired brigadier, who has already been granted American citizenship along with his family members, had also persuaded Shakeel Afridi, a Pakistani physician, to conduct a fake polio campaign in the Bilal Town area, Abbottabad to help the CIA hunt down Osama”.

Wikipedia adds: “The Abbottabad Commission Report is a judicial inquiry paper authored and submitted by the Abbottabad Commission, as led by Justice Javaid Iqbal, to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on 4 January 2013. The report investigates the circumstances surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Upon submission, the report was immediately classified by the Prime Minister as secret and its findings were not made public.”

The writer is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan

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First published on: 07-09-2019 at 04:40:35 am
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