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ISI knew of Osama's presence in Abbottabad: NY Times

20 March, 2014

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LAHORE: New revelations have surfaced, this time on The New York Times, regarding the mysterious stay of late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (OBL) in Abbottabad, with newspaper claiming that Pakistan's main intelligence service – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – was well aware of his presence.

The report prepared by British journalist Carlotta Gall claims that the ISI had established a special desk to handle OBL during the tenure of President General (r) Pervez Musharraf.

The report states that the desk "was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: bin Laden".

The report citing a Pakistani official alleges that the US had direct evidence of then ISI chief Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha knowing of OBL's presence in Abbottabad. The Pakistani official told The NY Times that he was "surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so". According to the official, Pasha had been an opponent of the Taliban and "an open and cooperative counterpart for the Americans at the ISI".

The New York Times report also alleges that evidence recovered from OBL's Abbottabad residence revealed regular correspondence with Jamatud Dawa's Hafiz Saeed and Mullah Omar of the Taliban, who must have known he was living in Pakistan.

Further allegations in the report are that there were cells in the ISI working against and fighting the Taliban, while some cells were supporting them.

The report also suggested that OBL reportedly travelled to Pakistan's tribal areas to meet with militant leader Qari Saifullah Akhtar. "Informally referred to as the 'father of jihad', Akhtar is considered one of the ISI's most valuable assets.

According to a Pakistani intelligence source, he was the commander accused of trying to kill Bhutto on her return in 2007, and he is credited with driving Mullah Omar out of Afghanistan on the back of a motorbike in 2001 and moving Bin Laden out of harm's way just minutes before American missile strikes on his camp in 1998," the report read.

It stated that after the September 11 attacks, he was detained several times in Pakistan. Yet he was never prosecuted and was quietly released each time by the ISI.

"At his meeting with Bin Laden in August 2009, Akhtar is reported to have requested al Qaeda's help in mounting an attack on the Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Intelligence officials learned about the meeting later that year from interrogations of men involved in the attack," the report said.

At the meeting, Bin Laden rejected Akhtar's request for help and urged him and other militant groups not to fight Pakistan but to serve the greater cause - the jihad against America.

According to the report, OBL warned against fighting inside Pakistan because it would destroy their home base. "If you make a hole in the ship, the whole ship will go down," he had reportedly said.

News report termed 'fabricated, baseless'

Top Pakistani intelligence officials on Wednesday reportedly rejected claims made by a British journalist that the ISI ran a special desk to handle former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

"There is no truth in New York Times story," an intelligence official, who wished not to be named, told a private news channel. "The claims are totally baseless."

Officials said that nobody in Pakistan knew about the presence of Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, another news channel reported that intelligence sources had strongly rejected The New York Times report – accusing Pakistan of harbouring bin Laden.

The sources said that the newspaper's piece was fabricated and based on lies, adding that the correspondent – Carlotta Gall – who wrote this piece was deported from Pakistan after being declared undesirable.

Lashing out at the reports, the intelligence sources said that the purpose of The NY Times report was to malign agencies and Pakistan. There has so far been no official reaction from either the Foreign Office or the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the Pakistan Army.

However, responding to the allegations, Hafiz Saeed told a local news channel, "They don't want peace in Pakistan, and want to confuse people. If they have any evidence, present it, if not, stop the propaganda."


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