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Did ISI know of Osama's hideout in Pakistan?

May 02, 2011 19:46 IST

In a major embarrassment for Pakistan's powerful army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden was killed just yards from a military compound that he visited last month where he had famously claimed that his forces had broken the "terrorist backbone".

"The terrorist backbone has been broken and Inshaallah we will soon prevail," Kayani said in his address at a passing out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul on April 23 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Incidentally, Osama was on Monday killed in a highly secured compound just 800 yards away from the academy by the United States Special Forces' personnel.

Kayani's comments had come days after Admiral Mike Mullen, America's top military official, warned that the Inter-Services Intelligence longstanding links with the Haqqani militant network are at the core of Pakistan's strained and problematic relations with the US.

Bin Laden was shot dead in a pre-dawn helicopter-borne razor-sharp operation on Monday in a house, just yards from the military academy in Abbottabad town, raising questions whether ISI knew his whereabouts.

The dreaded terror threat was found living in a fortress-like two-storey house, almost next door to Pakistan's Kakul Military Academy, which is home to army's three regiments and far away from remote mountain caves where most intelligence estimates put him in recent years.

US authorities had been keeping a watch over the compound since August.  ISI's possible knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts was also raised by a leading US daily.

"The killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan in an American operation, almost in plain sight in a medium-sized city that hosts numerous Pakistani forces, seems certain to further inflame tensions between the United States and Pakistan and raise significant questions about whether elements of the Pakistani spy agency knew the whereabouts of the leader of Al Qaeda," the New York Times said.

For nearly a decade, the US has paid Pakistan more than $1 billion a year for counterterrorism operations whose chief aim was the killing or capture of bin Laden, who slipped across the border from Afghanistan after the American invasion.

"The circumstance of bin Laden's death may not only jeopardise that aid, but will also no doubt deepen suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader," the daily said.

It said bin Laden was not killed in the remote and relatively lawless tribal regions, where the US has run a campaign of drone attacks aimed at Qaeda militants, where he was long rumoured to have taken refuge, and where the reach of the Pakistani government is  limited.

"Rather, he was killed in Abbottabad, a city of about 500,000, in a large and highly secured compound that, a resident of the city said, sits virtually adjacent to the grounds of a military academy.

"In an ironic twist, the academy was visited just last month by the Pakistani military chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani." It said the city hosts numerous Pakistani forces -- three different regiments --  and a unit of the Army Medical Corps.

Kayani appears to be less enthusiastic about the alliance with the US because he is under pressure from his senior generals, according to Pakistani officials who keep in touch with the military.

"About half of the 11 corps commanders, the generals who make up the senior command, have questioned the wisdom of the alliance," according the officials.

"Some of the younger mid-ranking officers -- majors and captains -- seem to have more sympathy for the militants than for the idea of fighting them," the daily quoted the officials as saying.

It added another major irritant has been the failure of the Pakistani military to heed the calls of the US to squash the Qaeda-linked militants known as the Haqqani network, which is given a free hand by the Pakistanis in North Waziristan.
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