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In the Media

article imageLeaked Pakistan report reveals Osama bin Laden's life in hiding

article:354009:22::0
By JohnThomas Didymus
Jul 9, 2013 in World
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After US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011 at a house in Abbottabad, the government set up a commission to establish the facts about the circumstances that led to the raid and how he lived in the country for almost a decade undetected.
The commission put together a 336-page document from interviews with 200 witnesses, including senior government and military officials, as well as bin Laden's three widows who were later deported to Saudi Arabia.
Part of the purpose of the inquiry was to ascertain whether Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan was kept secret with the connivance of senior officials.
A version of the report leaked to Al-Jazeera argues that the incompetence and negligence of local government agencies were the main factors in bin Laden's ability to live undetected in Pakistan for almost a decade.
According to the testimony of Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who was Director-General of Pakistan's premier Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, bin Laden continued planning "al-Qaeda's future operations" during the years he lived in Pakistan although he cut off personal contact with al-Qaeda operatives after the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in 2003.
The Pakistani Army Board of Inquiry was of the opinion that bin Laden was able to avoid detection for "due to the phased construction and occupation of the compound, the extremely low profile that was maintained, including very low technical signatures that might have indicated the presence of a High Value Target (HVT) [and] the clever selection of the OBL compound in an area few might suspect an HVT would choose to reside in."
Although the commission found no evidence that senior civilian and military officials colluded to keep bin Laden's presence in Pakistan secret, it said that "the possibility of some degree of connivance inside or outside the government" could not be ruled out.
The report criticized the government harshly, referring to "culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government," and concluded that lack of intelligence about Osama bin Laden was a symptom of what it described graphically as "government implosion syndrome."
The report said: "How the entire neighborhood, local officials, police and security and intelligence officials all missed the size, the strange shape, the barbed wire, the lack of cars and visitors etc. over a period of nearly six years beggars belief."
A section of the report concluded: "Either OBL was extremely fortunate to not run into anyone [c]ommitted to doing his job honestly, or there was a complete collapse of local governance."
Osama bin Laden's secret life
The Abottabad Commission's report was also able to give an impression of bin Laden's life and movements in the nine years he lived secretly in Pakistan. The report relied on information gathered largely from his wives and the wife of one of his guards, Maryam.
He is believed to have entered northwest Pakistan from Afghanistan early in 2002 after escaping US forces in the Battle of Tora Bora.
Maryam, the wife of Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, one of the two brothers who served as guards and couriers to bin Laden during the nine years he lived in Pakistan, told investigators that she first met bin Laden, whom she described as a tall "clean shaven Arab," in mid-2002 in Peshawar, in northwest Pakistan.
Osama bin Laden lived in the Swat District, near the Pakistan-Afghan border for eight months, with the family of the al-Kuwaiti brothers, Ibrahim and Abrar, recruited by Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, one of the alleged chief plotters in the 9/11 attacks.
The Swat group included Maryam and her husband Ibrahim; Abrar and his new wife Bushra, a woman from Kohat; bin Laden and his third wife, 29-year-old Yemeni, Amal Ahmad Abdul Fattah al-Sada with an infant daughter; two unidentified men, one a driver and the other a man who wore a police uniform during the trip to Swat from Peshawar.
According to Maryam, the "tall Arab" kept to himself most of the time while he lived with Ibrahim's family in Swat. His wife Amal became pregnant at the time.
Osama bin Laden' car was stopped for Speeding
Although the family lived in relative isolation, Maryam recounts an incident while they were visiting a bazaar with bin Laden in the car. A traffic policeman stopped the car for speeding. According to Maryam, Ibrahim quickly "settled the matter" with the policeman, who for a small bribe unknowingly allowed the world's most wanted man to escape arrest.
In March 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested by the CIA and the Pakistan ISI in Rawalpindi barely a month after he visited Osama bin Ladin in Swat with his family. The incident forced Bin Laden, who received the news on Al Jazeera, to leave Swat for an unknown destination.
Life in Haripur
Three months later, Maryam and Bushra were reunited with bin Laden and his wife Amal, at a two-storey house with three bedrooms in the Naseem outskirts of Haripur, a town about 35 km south of Abbottabad. They lived in the house with bin Laden, bin Laden's second Saudi wife Siham Sabar, also known as "Sharifa," her son Khalid bin Laden and two daughters: Sumayya and Mariam, both adults in their early 20s.
They lived in the house for almost two years during which the men watched Al Jazeera regularly. They never used phones in the house. The al-Kuwaiti brothers would travel to Peshawar about 150 km away or to Rawalpindi a distance of 65km to make calls from Public Call Offices (PCOs).
Amal gave birth to a child at a local clinic during the time. According to the report, Abrar and his wife Bushra handled all interactions with the hospital staff claiming that Amal was deaf and dumb.
In July 2004, the brothers Abrar and Ibrahim purchased a piece of land in Abbottabad, an army garrison town about 85km north of Islamabad, under the false names "Muhammad Arshad" and "Tariq Khan" respectively.
They began construction of a two-storey building with high walls on the land in August 2004 and completed it in 2005.
'Miskeen Baba'
The group moved to the house in August 2005, with Abrar and Ibrahim moving their families before bin Laden and his family followed. They told local authorities they had relocated from the tribal areas to escape a family feud, a story which they used as excuse for the high walls surrounding the property.
The house came to be known to the locals as "Waziristan House" or simply "The Big House."
The brothers took care of all supplies while bin Laden's son Khalid took care of maintenance. Only Abrar and Ibrahim left the house regularly, often joining the local community for prayers at the local mosque. The rest of the family lived with little contact with the local community.
During the period, bin Laden never left the compound. His family lived a frugal and secluded life with bin Laden owning only three pairs of Pakistani traditional outfits for summer and three for winter. He also owned a black jacket, two sweaters and a "cowboy hat" which he wore when he was out in the compound to avoid detection from above. He reportedly suffered several ailments, including kidney and possibly heart problems, but there is no evidence that a doctor ever visited him.
The families of Abrar and Ibrahim, however, had more freedom, although their children as well as bin Laden's did not go to school. All the children in the compound were home-schooled.
Osama bin Laden's family was kept separate from Abrar and Ibrahim's family with only very little social interaction.
Maryam recounted an incident in which Rahma, her nine-year-old daughter, asked her father why the "uncle who lives" upstairs never goes to the bazaar. Ibrahim told the girl it was because the man was too poor to buy anything at the bazaar. The little girl immediately nicknamed bin Laden "Miskeen Baba" meaning "Poor Uncle."
Once, Rahma accidentally met "Miskeen Baba" in the bin Laden section of the house while taking lessons with Summayya (one of bin Laden's daughters). The incident led to her being banned from the bin Laden family's section of the house.
But soon after, while watching Al Jazeera, the quick-witted girl recognized a photo of "Miskeen Baba" on the network.
Shaken, Ibrahim banned all the women of his household from watching TV. The incident led to complete isolation of the bin Laden family from the al-Kuwaitis.
Maryam claimed she lived with the "tall Arab" for nine years without realizing that he was Osama bin Laden.
The last person to join the family before the US Navy Seal raid was Khairriyyah Abar, Osama bin Ladin's 61-year-old first wife. She arrived three months before the May 1 raid in which bin Laden was killed.
article:354009:22::0
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