Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Residents shocked bin Laden was in neighbourhood ...



News Video | Mon, 02 May 2011 21:55:00 +1000 | Duration 5m 26s
Al Jazeera correspondent Imtiaz Tyab talks to the ABC about the reaction in Abbottabad, the town north of Islamabad where Bin Laden was killed.
Bin Laden compound AP/Anjum Naveed

Bin Laden was unarmed when SEALs stormed room

A Pakistani youngster shows metal pieces collected from wheat field outside a house, seen background, where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in A AP – A Pakistani youngster shows metal pieces collected from wheat field outside a house, seen background, …


WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden was unarmed when Navy SEALs burst into his room and shot him to death, the White House said Tuesday, a change in the official account that raised questions about whether the U.S. ever planned to capture the terrorist leader alive.
The Obama administration was still debating whether to release gruesome images of bin Laden's corpse, balancing efforts to demonstrate to the world that he was dead against the risk that the images could provoke further anti-U.S. sentiment. But CIA Director Leon Panetta said a photograph would be released.
"I don't think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public," Panetta said in an interview with "NBC Nightly News." Asked again later by The Associated Press, he said, "I think it will."
Asked about the final confrontation with bin Laden, Panetta said: "I don't think he had a lot of time to say anything." The CIA chief told PBS NewsHour, "It was a firefight going up that compound. ... I think it - this was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs."
Panetta said that bin Laden made "some threatening moves that were made that clearly represented a clear threat to our guys. And that's the reason they fired."
The SEALs were back in the U.S. at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington for debriefing on the raid, lawmakers said after meeting with Panetta.
The question of how to present bin Laden's death to the world is a difficult balancing act for the White House. President Barack Obama told Americans that justice had been done, but the White House also declared that bin Laden's body was treated respectfully and sent to rest in a somber ceremony at sea.
Panetta underscored on Tuesday that Obama had given permission to kill the terror leader: "The authority here was to kill bin Laden," he said. "And obviously, under the rules of engagement, if he had in fact thrown up his hands, surrendered and didn't appear to be representing any kind of threat, then they were to capture him. But they had full authority to kill him."
For the long-term legacy of the most successful counterterrorism operation in U.S. history, the fact that bin Laden was unarmed is unlikely to matter much to the Americans he declared war against. President George W. Bush famously said he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive," and the CIA's top counterterrorism official once promised to bring bin Laden's head back on a stake.
Yet just 24 hours before the White House acknowledged that bin Laden had been unarmed, Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said: "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."
Will it matter around the world? Some may try to make much of it in Pakistan and elsewhere.
"This country has gone through a lot of trauma in terms of violence, and whether or not he was armed is not going to make a difference to people who were happy to see the back of him," said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst and columnist in Pakistan. "The majority have a mistrust of America and this will reinforce their mistrust of America."
Others may not even believe it.
"I think he was definitely armed and he was firing on U.S. commandos," said Hamid Mir, an anchor for Geo Television. "Osama told me many times that he will not surrender; he claimed that he will fight and I think he was fighting."
In Washington, the issue will become part of the political debate over Obama's terror policies. His national security team had offered differing accounts of what would happen if the U.S. ever had a chance to kill or capture bin Laden. And Republicans have criticized the president for shutting down the CIA's controversial network of overseas prisons and trying to close Guantanamo Bay, moves they say have left the U.S. with few options for interrogating terrorists.
On Monday, the White House said bin Laden was involved in a firefight, which is why the SEALs killed rather than captured him. On Tuesday, however, White House press secretary Jay Carney said bin Laden did not fire on the SEALs. He said bin Laden resisted but offered no specifics. Bin Laden's wife rushed the SEALs when they stormed the room, Carney said, and was shot in the calf
"Bin Laden was then shot and killed," Carney said. "He was not armed."
That was one of many official details that have changed in the two days since bin Laden was killed. A White House transcript misidentified which of bin Laden's sons was killed — it was Khalid, not Hamza. Officials incorrectly said bin Laden's wife died in gunfire while serving as his human shield. That was actually bin Laden's aide's wife, and she was just caught in cross fire, the White House said Tuesday.
Carney attributed those discrepancies to the fog of war, saying the information was coming in bit by bit and was still being reviewed.
"We provided a great deal of information with great haste in order to inform you, and through you the American public, about the operation and how it transpired and the events that took place there in Pakistan," Carney told reporters Tuesday. "And obviously some of the information came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on."
Five people were killed in the raid, officials said: Bin Laden; his son; his most trusted courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, and al-Kuwaiti's wife and brother.
After killing the world's most wanted terrorist, the SEAL team in just minutes quickly swept bin Laden's compound for useful intelligence, making off with a cache of computer equipment and documents. The CIA was hurriedly setting up a task force to review the material from the highest level of al-Qaida's leadership.
The documents provide a rare opportunity for U.S. intelligence. When a mid-level terrorist is captured, his bosses know exactly what information might be compromised and can change plans. When the boss is taken, everything might be compromised but nobody knows for sure.
Al-Kuwaiti inadvertently led intelligence officials to bin Laden when he used a telephone last year to talk with someone the U.S. had wiretapped. The CIA then tracked al-Kuwaiti back to the walled compound in a town near Islamabad.
The home was bigger than those nearby, and there were no phone lines or Internet cables running to it. But other than that, it didn't stand out in the neighborhood, where residents tend to be very religious and jealous of their privacy. The walls are mold-stained, there are trees in the garden and the windows are hidden. Once, when a woman involved in a polio vaccine drive turned up at the driveway, the men at the gate took the vaccine, apparently to administer to the 23 children at the compound, and told her to go away.
The Pakistani government has denied suggestions that its security forces knew anything about bin Laden's hideout or failed to spot suspicious signs. But in the closed-door briefing for lawmakers Tuesday, Panetta said, "Pakistan was involved or incompetent," a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private briefing.
Pakistan formally criticized the raid Tuesday, calling it an "unauthorized unilateral action." While the statement suggested further strain in U.S. relations with an important but at times unreliable counterterrorism ally, Pakistan is unlikely to have much world support for criticizing the successful mission.
Though Monday's pre-dawn raid on that compound was a major counterterrorism victory, there had been no guarantee of success. Government analysts suspected bin Laden was living there but could never prove it. Satellite surveillance provided the military with images to plan its strike but never captured a picture of bin Laden on the property.
With no assurance that bin Laden would be there, sending troops into Pakistan was a risky call. The SEALs could storm a compound and find no terrorists at all, leaving Pakistan furious about a U.S. military incursion. Or the Pakistani military, not realizing what was going on, could send its own air force to attack the SEAL team.
"What if you go down and you're in a firefight and the Pakistanis show up and start firing?" Panetta said in an interview with Time. "How do you fight your way out?"
With officials at the CIA and the White House watching on television monitors, tensions increased when one of the two Black Hawk helicopters lowered into the compound and, beneath a moonless sky, fell heavily to the ground. Officials believe that was due to higher-than-expected air temperature that interfered with the chopper's ability to hover — an aeronautical condition known as "hot and high."
Photos released by the White House show the president and national security team watching tensely as events unfolded. The CIA director said neither he nor Obama saw bin Laden shot.
The SEALs all got out of the downed helicopter and proceeded into the compound. As they swept through the property, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of their target, code-named Geronimo. Many SEAL team members carry helmet-mounted cameras, but the video beamed back to Washington did not show the fateful showdown with bin Laden, officials said.
That word came from the SEALs on the ground: "Geronimo EKIA" — enemy killed in action.
The CIA's makeshift command center erupted in applause as the SEALs helicoptered to safety.
Now, the agency's attention turns to finding the intelligence in the computer files, flash drives, DVDs and documents hauled out of the compound. All of that is in Washington and the analysis has begun. The SEALs also confiscated phone numbers from bin Laden's body, and those might provide new leads for investigators. If the intelligence provides the kind of insight about al-Qaida operations that officials hope, the U.S. could deliver follow-up strikes against al-Qaida's remaining leaders.
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Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier, Donna Cassata, Alan Fram, , Darlene Superville, Ben Feller, Erica Werner, Pauline Jelinek, Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington, Chris Brummitt in Islamabad and Nahal Toosi and Zarar Khan in Abbottabad contributed to this report.
                           

Bin Laden's neighbors noticed unusual things

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan – When a woman involved in a polio vaccine drive turned up at Osama bin Laden's hideaway, she remarked to the men behind the high walls about the expensive SUVs parked inside. The men took the vaccine, apparently to administer to the 23 children at the compound, and told her to go away.
The terror chief and his family kept well hidden behind thick walls in this northwestern hill town they shared with thousands of Pakistani soldiers. But glimpses of their life are emerging — along with deep skepticism that authorities didn't know they were there.
Although the house is large, it was unclear how three dozen people could have lived there with any degree of comfort.
Neighbors said they knew little about those inside in the compound but bin Laden apparently depended on two men who would routinely emerge to run errands or to a neighborhood gathering, such as a funeral. There were conflicting details about the men's identities. Several people said they were known as Tariq and Arshad Khan and had identified themselves as cousins from elsewhere in northwestern Pakistan. Others gave different names and believed they were brothers.
Arshad was the oldest, and both spoke multiple languages, including Pashto and Urdu, which are common here, residents said.
As Navy SEALs swept through the compound early Monday, they handcuffed those they encountered with plastic zip ties and pressed on in pursuit of bin Laden. After killing the terror leader, his son and two others, they doubled back to move nine women and 23 children away from the compound, according to U.S. officials.
Those survivors of the raid are now "in safe hands and being looked after in accordance to the law," the Pakistani government said in a statement. "As per policy, they will be handed over to their countries of origin." It did not elaborate.
Also unclear was why bin Laden chose Abbottabad, though at least two other top al-Qaida leaders have sheltered in this town. The bustling streets are dotted with buildings left over from British colonial days. These days it attracts some tourists, but is known mostly as a garrison town wealthier than many others in Pakistan.
Bin Laden found it safe enough to stay for up to six years, according to U.S. officials, a stunning length of time to remain in one place right under the noses of a U.S.-funded army that had ostensibly been trying to track him down. Most intelligence assessments believed him to be along the Afghan-Pakistan border, perhaps in a cave.
Construction of the three-story house began about seven years ago, locals said. People initially were curious about the heavily fortified compound — which had walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire — but over time they just grew to believe the family inside was deeply religious and conservative.
The Pakistani government also pushed back at suggestions that security forces were sheltering bin Laden or failed to spot suspicious signs.
"It needs to be appreciated that many houses (in the northwest) have high boundary walls, in line with their culture of privacy and security," the government said. "Houses with such layout and structural details are not a rarity."
The house has been described as a mansion, even a luxury one, but from the outside it is nothing special. Bin Laden may have well have been able to take in a view of the hills from secluded spots in the garden, though.
The walls are stained with mold, trees are in the garden and the windows are hidden. U.S. officials said the house had no Internet or phone connection to reduce the risk of electronic surveillance. They also said residents burned their trash to avoid collection.
Those who live nearby said the people in bin Laden's compound rarely strayed outside. Most were unaware that foreigners — bin Laden and his family are Arabs — were living there.
Khurshid Bibi, in her 70s, said one man living in the compound had given her a lift to the market in the rain. She said her grandchildren played with the kids in the house and that the adults there gave them rabbits as a gift.
But the occupants also attracted criticism.
"People were skeptical in this neighborhood about this place and these guys. They used to gossip, say they were smugglers or drug dealers. People would complain that even with such a big house they didn't invite the poor or distribute charity," said Mashood Khan, a 45-year-old farmer.
Questions persisted about how authorities could not have known who was living in the compound, especially since it was close to a prestigious military academy.
As in other Pakistani towns, hotels in Abbottabad are supposed to report the presence of foreigners to the police, as are estate agents. Abbottabad police chief Mohammed Naeem said the police followed the procedures but "human error cannot be avoided."
Reporters were allowed to get as far as the walls of the compound for the first time, but the doors were sealed
By early Wednesday, roads leading to the compound had once again been sealed off, this time with even tighter security.
Neighbors earlier showed off small parts of what appeared to be a U.S. helicopter that malfunctioned and was disabled by the American strike team as it retreated. A small servant's room outside the perimeter showed signs of violent entry and a brisk search. Clothes and bedding had been tossed aside. A wall clock was on the floor, the time stuck at 2:20.
Abbottabad has so far been spared the terrorist bombings that have scarred much of Pakistan over the last four years.
Like many Pakistani towns where the army has a strong presence, Abbottabad is well-manicured, and has solid infrastructure. Street signs tell residents to "Love Pakistan." The city also is known for its good schools, including some that were originally established by Christian missionaries.
Little girls wear veils while carrying Hannah Montana backpacks to school. Many houses in the outlying areas have modern amenities, but lie along streets covered with trash. Shepherds herd their flock of sheep along dusty roads just a few hundred yards from modern banks.
Al-Qaida's No. 3, Abu Faraj al-Libi, lived in the town before his arrest in 2005 elsewhere in northwest Pakistan, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. Earlier this year, Indonesian terror suspect Umar Patek was nabbed at a house in the town following the arrest of an al-Qaida courier who worked at the post office. It is not clear whether Patek had any links with bin Laden.
Western officials have long regarded Pakistani security forces with suspicion, chiefly over their links to militants fighting in Afghanistan. Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton caused anger in Pakistan when she said she found it "hard to believe" that no one in Islamabad knows where the al-Qaida leaders are hiding and couldn't get them "if they really wanted to."
But al-Qaida has been responsible for scores of bloody attacks inside Pakistan, including on its army and civilian leaders. Critics of Pakistan have speculated that a possible motivation for Pakistan to have kept bin Laden on the run — rather than arresting or killing him — would be to ensure a constant flow of U.S. aid and weapons into the country.
Suspicions were also aired in Pakistani media and on the street Tuesday.
"That house was obviously a suspicious one," said Jahangir Khan, who was buying a newspaper in Abbottabad. "Either it was a complete failure of our intelligence agencies or they were involved in this affair."
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Associated Press Writer Chris Brummitt in Islamabad contribute to this report.