Report reveals fresh details of Osama bin Laden’s life
In this 2012 photo, young Pakistani children play near demolition works on the compound where al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was slain in Abbottabad. AFP photoAl-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden lived in plain sight for almost a decade and was once even pulled over for speeding but not apprehended, thanks to the incompetence and negligence of Pakistan’s intelligence and security services, an official report on his killing said July 8.
Written by a judge-led commission that the Pakistani government set up shortly after U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in 2011, the 336-page report, which was leaked to broadcaster Al Jazeera, is based on interviews with 201 sources including members of his family and various officials. The inquiry’s findings, which have not yet been officially published, include evidence of incompetence at almost every level of Pakistan’s security apparatus.
Wearing a cowboy hat
“Culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government can more or less be conclusively established by the testimonies of witnesses,” the report read. Some U.S. officials have voiced suspicions that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies sheltered bin Laden, but Pakistan has dismissed the idea. The commission said it had found nothing to support allegations of complicity but neither could it rule out the possibility of “’plausibly deniable’ support” from current or former officials.
The report included new information about bin Laden’s day-to-day life after he fled the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, arriving in Pakistan in the spring or summer of 2002. He moved to the Abbottabad compound with his big family in August 2005. After a decade-long hunt, the CIA killed the al-Qaeda leader in 2011 in the compound, close to the capital Islamabad.
In one testimony showing how close bin Laden came to being captured, Maryam, the wife of one of his most trusted aides, recounted how his car was stopped by Pakistani police in the Swat region. “Once when they were all ... on a visit to the bazaar they were stopped for speeding by a policeman,” the report read. “But her [Maryam’s] husband quickly settled the matter with the policeman and they drove on.” To avoid detection from the sky, bin Laden took to wearing a cowboy hat when moving about his compound in the city of Abbottabad, his wives told investigators.
Some chocolate with an apple
“They kept a very low profile and lived extremely frugally. They never exposed themselves to public view. They had minimum security,” the report read. “OBL successfully minimized any ‘signature’ of his presence. His minimal support group blended easily with the surrounding community ... His wives, children and grandchildren hardly ever emerged from the places where they stayed. No one ever visited them, not even trusted al-Qaeda members,” the report said.
His wives, in their testimonies, said bin Laden was not fond of personal possessions and had very few clothes. “Before coming to Abbottabad he had just three pairs of shalwar kameez [traditional dress] for summer, and three pairs for winter,” it said. If he felt ill, he treated himself with traditional Arab medicine and “whenever he felt sluggish he would take some chocolate with an apple,” the report said.
The report is also fiercely critical of the “illegal manner” in which the United States conducted the raid. It chastises Pakistan’s leadership for failing to detect CIA activities on its soil. “The U.S. acted like a criminal thug,” read the report.
Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.