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Bin Laden moved freely in Pakistan, was stopped for speeding
Question of the Day
After his escape from Afghanistan, and while being the most wanted man on Earth, Osama bin Laden moved around Pakistan’s Swat Valley with relative freedom and was even stopped once for speeding, according to a newly leaked draft report from an independent commission of inquiry in Islamabad.
The speeding stop, which took place sometime between 2002 and spring 2003, is related by Maryam al-Kuwati, the widow of Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, bin Laden’s trusted courier who died with him in the U.S. raid on his compound by Navy SEALs in May 2011.
The report details charges from Pakistan’s feared Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, that the CIA suborned Pakistani officials to get visas issued for its operatives and contractors, and that the agency infiltrated and used as cover aid groups and other nonprofits, despite a declared policy to the contrary.
The CIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The commission, headed by the senior judge of Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Justice Javed Iqbal, says in the report it was established to deal with the “national embarrassment, humiliation and trauma” of the raid, in which U.S. helicopters invaded the nation’s airspace for three hours, without the Pakistani military ever knowing it.
Pakistan’s Air Force Command learned of the raid from the television news, the commission’s draft report says.
It says bin Laden was in Pakistan for more than 10 years without ever drawing the attention of any security agency, which it calls a “collective failure” of Pakistani intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
“The Pakistan government’s response before, during and after [the bin Laden raid] appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government.”
“In the premier intelligence institution,” the commissioners write of the ISI, “religiosity replaced accountability at the cost of professionalism.”
Drawing on accounts from 200 witnesses and officials, including the survivors of the raid, the report says that bin Laden first came to Pakistan in 2002, after narrowly escaping the U.S. military at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. Ms. al-Kuwaiti told the commission she was wed to bin Laden’s aide in 2001, at the age of 14.
The following year, she met a “very tall, clean shaven Arab man.” The man, whom she later came to know was bin Laden, his wife and her own husband, plus her husband’s brother Abrar al-Kuwaiti and his wife, lived in a “beautiful house” they rented in the Swat valley. In 2003, they met a fourth man, 9/11 operational planner Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. A few weeks later, KSM was arrested, and bin Laden and the two brothers fled Swat.
But at some point during their sojourn in Swat, Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti was driving bin Laden and other family members, when the car was stopped for speeding. Al-Kuwaiti “quickly settled the matter,” and they drove off, without the policeman recognizing bin Laden, the report said.
In 2005, the terror leader’s entourage moved into their newly constructed compound in Abbottabad, less than a mile from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy and lived there for six years until the raid.
The report says there was no effort to give bin Laden or the other male inhabitants any chance to surrender. “The U.S. raid was not a capture or kill mission. It was a kill mission … a criminal act of murder” authorized by the U.S. president.
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About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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