By Aijaz Ahmed
Islamabad: Foreign Office, the ISPR (Pakistan military’s press department, Inter Services Press Relations), other government spokesmen remained in a permanent state of denial whenever pressed on the question of the whereabouts of the most wanted man on the face of earth, Osama bin Laden, but he was finally caught and killed in a late-night targeted surgical operation that lasted for just 40 minutes in Abbottabad, the posh cantonment city of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province.
The available details suggests that despite complete intelligence sharing with United States, the operation proceedings were kept strictly secret and were shared with the political leadership of the country that is paying huge sacrifices for the war on terror, even though the military leadership has always been in limelight.
I talked to many people in Abbottabad, including the journalists, and the details available suggest that the house raided last night by US commandos was just 2 kilometers away from Pakistan’s premier Kakul Military Academy. The raided house in Bilal town was at the end of the newly built colony and was a fort like structure. The house had two compound walls. The outer wall was about 18 feet high while the inner compound walls more than 7 feet high, and two separate housing structures were built inside with windows not directed towards the road.
|OBL's Abbottabad compound, raided by US commandos|
The house is situated at a very secure place, Kakul Military Academy is situated in the west and high hills are in East. The house had only one vehicular approach road.
As far as the security is concerned, it was completely scanned with security gadgets, security cameras, CCTV monitors, speakers phone, and the automatic electric gate, which were secure enough to stop any attempt from pedestrians to enter the compound.
But nothing could stop commandos taking Arial Route. It is said that around 25 to 30 US Commandos arrived on two helicopters, one of which was damaged and caught fire in result of the firing by OBL and his companions, thus lighted the whole area. However, after landing safely, the commandos started targeted operation. Later wreckage was left at the scene.
OBL resisted for forty minutes, and finally was shot dead along with one of his wives and three children. A 12-year-old daughter remained safe as she took refuge in upper story of the house and later was nabbed by the operating commandos and is with Americans now, the sources maintained.
The available details through intelligence sources suggest that the operating team was fully aware even with the minor details of the house and whereabouts of OBL who was present on the second story of the double story building with his Yemeni wife and a Kuwaiti Guard along with children.
From where the helicopters took off still remains a mystery with different sources in the intelligence giving conflicting reports. Some sources suggest that helicopters took off from Jalalabad air base in Eastern Afghanistan. The information provided by other intelligence sources suggests that the helicopters flew from Ghazi base in Tarbela area. Former chief of Pakistani premier spy agency, ISI, and once US collaborator General Hameed Gul also agreed the second opinion. Former chief spy while talking to media maintained with full conviction that the helicopters took off and went back to Ghazi Base.
The post operation search of the house revealed that the house belonged to Some Mr. Arshad Khan s/o Naqeeb Khan, hailing from village Fas-Tungi of Charsadda District of KPK. A non-computerized Identity Card, which has been replaced with new one, has been recovered along with other papers. Number on the card was 1397743092.
The house was built in 2005. Initially it was totally isolated, later few other houses were built in the area and the intelligence sources still believed that the few surrounding houses also belonged to Bin Laden group. Eyewitness only noticed a land cruiser and another vehicle, but no individual was seen ever outside the house, neither a face was seen from the black windows of the vehicles.
It is also believed that another wife of OBL was present in the compound and was injured with a bullet in left leg. She along with four other suspects are in American custody and are shifted somewhere in Afghanistan.
On the other hand Islamabad politically seems totally stunned that the intelligence sharing and cooperation for the operation was in place at very high level in the intelligence agencies but the political leadership was kept in complete dark. A government officer confided on the condition of anonymity that same number of Pakistani commandos provided cover to the operating US soldiers.
Truth behind the operation, and about Pak-US security cooperation could not be verified as no independent sources are available at the moment, but it is certain that political leadership’s lips are sealed. Foreign Office and ISPR are stunned, eyebrows are up and foreheads of top men in the civilian and military establishment are not straight any more.
How OBL was traced is a movie like story? Initially a satellite telephone call was traced in May 2010, from somewhere in Abbottabad, a track was kept till August last year when last call was traced, sources confided.
The intelligence sources also confirm that the Bin Laden was traced through a human courier. In fact CIA was keeping an eye on a Yemeni citizen since 2005 after some of his mysterious activities. The Courier was finally spotted in 2007, after his relationship with Al-Qaeda was established, but nobody at CIA knew that he is a man of Bin Laden himself.
Bin Laden was not using mobile, Internet, satellite phone or any other electronic device from the compound he was staying. However, calls were being made some where from Kala Dhaka or adjacent jungle areas, but whenever a raid was conducted, nobody was found there. Few months back the man spotted by CIA was found entering the compound of Bilal Town where operation was conducted late Sunday night. However, still it was mystery that whom the man meets. But finally last week he was found walking along with Bin Laden in the compound of the house, and thus established that the host is no one else but Osama Bin Laden!
President Obama informed President Zardari about the successful operation, according to the US president and the Pakistan Foreign Office. Emergency situation emerged with the bombshell like information by President Obama. The worried president Zardari called an emergency meeting at Presidency in the early morning duly attended by Army Chief, ISI Chief, MI Chief and IB Chief, beside President, Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other top officials.
The meeting discussed threadbare the pros and cons of the operation, and sources maintain that the consensus emerged at the meeting was about a fierce backlash by Tehrik e Taliban, Al-Qaeda and different splinter Islamist groups.
General Kayani, who visited Islamabad thrice today and Intelligence Chiefs briefed the meeting about their recent deliberations with Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus and other US Generals who visited Islamabad last week. The army Chief informed the meeting that the mistrust between the two countries and the ISI and CIA leads towards keeping the operation proceedings secret up to some extent.
United States believes that whenever any intelligence report was shared with Pakistan, it was leaked at lower level, and this was the sole reason for taking very limited support and cover and keeping the operation proceedings secret.
The meeting decided to maintain silence, except at the Foreign Office level. Only Prime Minister uttered few lines in support of the statement issued by FO. However, it is said that the ISPR is considering issuing some details of the operation with prior permission of the military leadership, but it may take few days.
In view of the extent of the backlash, security of the Army Chief, MI Chief, ISI Chief and other Military top Brass is beefed up, invisible security of the president and the Prime Minister is also increased following the intelligence reports.
On the other hand Intelligence sources revealed that an emergency meeting of Al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan was held in border areas of Eastern Afghanistan to discuss the situation after the death of its leader. The intelligence agencies and independent observers believe that the man targeted in Abbottabad was no more a functional head of Al-Qaeda; however he was source of finances for the outfit. Intelligence sources are indicating fierce backlash despite the fact that he was not active nowadays and more vigorously and strongly by Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan. The later in a latest video message has threatened more attacks inside Pakistan. “Pakistan is our enemy number one”, says spokesman of TTP in his latest message, adding that “we will refresh our war with the already terrorism hit country”. The TTP also threatened to target top Pakistani leadership including President, PM, and others and the military leadership.
The worrisome aspect of the operation lies in the fact that the most wanted man was living just two kilometers away from the Military Academy, and no intelligence agency was aware of it. This raises serious questions regarding the capabilities of our agencies.
The post operation scenario according to the observers is very serious. It is now a proven fact that stories of Bin Laden’s presence in Shagai area of South Waziristan, Shwal’s Jungle of North Waziristan, Kunhar, and Chitral are correct and true. He according to the sources arrived in Abbottabad from Chitral through Bisham and Kohistan.
Observers like Nazir Naji, Najam Sethi, Dr. Riffat Hussain and General Talat Masud have expressed fear that US will now increase pressure on Pakistan regarding presence of Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Umar and other Taliban and Al-Qaeda high value targets, and Pakistan will not be in a position to say no to the demands.
It is disclosed that some of the elements in the US establishment have already started raising questions regarding the Quetta Shura, thus a threat of physical military boots on Pakistani soil has increased. Same demand and attitude is also feared to be raised by India.
Intelligence sources also confided that two of the top Al-Qaeda operatives including a Bali (Indonesia) bombing suspects were recently nabbed from Abbottabad. This according to intelligence sources indicates that Abbottabad and Faisalabad, because of the nature of the two cities, are being used as safe heaven by Al-Qaeda operatives, and this was the reason for many arrests from both cities.
Sources on the other hand reveal that the military leadership is not happy with the news aired by some of the channels regarding radar jamming during the operation. The leaked information may endanger security of the nuclear assets, said sources adding that the airing such news items display impression that anybody having such technology may harm our nuclear safety any time.
Whatever the situation may be, the government and Pakistan are in very hot waters, and threats will be increased for Pakistan in the days to come, and trust of the Pakistani intelligence agencies will also be reduced, according to the independent observers.