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Mystery shrouds death of Osama bin Laden

May 02, 2011 23:09 IST

The killing of Osama bin Laden  by United States forces in a compound located just 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy near Abbottabad ended the hunt for the world's most wanted man though several aspects of his death remained shrouded in mystery.

The Pakistan government maintained silence on the death of the Al Qaida chief for almost four hours after it was announced by United States President Barack Obama. Over 18 hours after the operation mounted by US Special Forces, there was no clarity on the whereabouts of the body of bin Laden.

"Several key issues are still shrouded in mystery. Questions are being raised on whether the US raid amounted to a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. And where is the body?" said noted security analyst Imitiaz Gul.

"The US seems to have had enough actionable intelligence and it didn't want to take a risk by involving Pakistan in the operation," Gul, the author of The Most Dangerous place, told PTI.

Some analysts claimed Pakistani security forces appeared to have been taken unawares as the US team flew in from Afghanistan, covering the distance from the border to the garrison city of Abbottabad in about 30 minutes.

Other observers, however, pointed to a flurry of visits to Pakistan last month by several top American military officials, including Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, and concluded that both sides had mounted a joint operation.

Pakistan's Foreign Office said in a statement that bin Laden was killed in an intelligence driven operation by US forces.

The statement was silent on the involvement of Pakistani security and intelligence agencies in the operation. However, the killing of the world's most wanted man, who carried a bounty of $25 million on his head, in a fortified compound a short distance from Pakistan's equivalent of Britain's Sandhurst or the US West Point raised some awkward and embarrassing questions for Pakistani  authorities.

Journalists who visited the white-walled compound near Abbottabad, 120 km from Islamabad, said it was located about 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The compound is located within the Abbottabad cantonment, which has several check posts and is home to thousands of troops.

The compound, which had a three-storey building, was known to local residents as "Waziristan Haveli" as it was believed to be owned by people from Waziristan, described  by the US as a safe haven for Taliban and Al Qaida militants.

US officials said the compound attracted their suspicion last year as it was estimated to be worth over a million dollars and was eight times larger than other homes in the area. The compound's walls, 12 to 18 feet high, were topped by barbed wire.

Besides bin Laden, one of his sons, two suspected couriers and a woman who was being used as a human shield were also killed in the operation. Two women and four children, described by Pakistani TV channels as bin Laden's wives and offspring, were taken away from the compound.

It could not immediately be ascertained how long bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, had been in Abbottabad, which is a two-hour drive from Islamabad. In January, Indonesian Al Qaida operative Umar Patek was captured by Pakistani intelligence operatives in Abbottabad.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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