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Osama Bin Laden Raid: One Year Later, No Answers From Pakistan


ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan — One year since U.S. commandos flew into this Pakistani army town and killed Osama bin Laden, Islamabad has failed to answer tough questions over whether its security forces were protecting the world's most wanted terrorist.

Partly as a result, fallout from the raid still poisons relations between Washington and Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment, support for Islamist extremism and anger at the violation of sovereignty in the operation can be summed up by a Twitter hashtag doing the rounds: 02MayBlackDay.

The Pakistani government initially welcomed the raid that killed bin Laden in his three-story compound, but within hours the mood changed as it became clear that Pakistan's army was cut out of the operation. Any discussions over how bin Laden managed to stay undetected in Pakistan were drowned out in anger at what the army portrayed as a treacherous act by a supposed ally.

That bin Laden was living with his family near Pakistan's version of West Point – not in a cave in the mountains as many had guessed – raised eyebrows in the West. The Pakistani army was already accused of playing both sides in the campaign against militancy, providing some support against al-Qaida but keeping the Afghan Taliban as strategic allies.

A week after the raid, President Barack Obama said bin Laden had a "support network" in Pakistan and the country must investigate how he evaded capture. Pakistan responded by announcing the formation of a committee to investigate bin Laden's presence in Pakistan as well as the circumstances surrounding the U.S. raid.

Soon after it began its work, the head of the committee said he was sure that security forces were not hiding bin Laden. Other statements since then have also suggested the report will be more of a whitewash than a genuine probe.

Last week, committee spokesman retired Col. Mohammad Irfan Naziri said its findings were being written up but they might not be released publicly.

"We're disappointed," said a U.S. official about the investigation. "They promised to do it, but they haven't yet."

The public line of the Obama administration is that no evidence has emerged to suggest bin Laden had high-level help inside Pakistan. Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency said bin Laden's long and comfortable existence in the country was an "intelligence failure."

But suspicions have increased following recent disclosures by one of bin Laden's wives in a police interrogation report that the al-Qaida leader lived in five houses while on the run and fathered four children, two of whom were born in Pakistani government hospitals.

"I just find the idea that he lived in a place like Abbottabad without the ISI's knowledge strains credibility," said Shawn Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at Bradford University in the U.K. "It is ridiculous that he wasn't being protected."

Since the raid, Pakistan has tried to close one of the most notorious chapters in its history.

The three-story compound in Abbottabad that housed him for six years was razed by bulldozers in a surprise, nighttime operation. Just last week, his three wives and 11 daughters, children and grandchildren were deported to Saudi Arabia; their side of the story is unlikely to be told anytime soon.

In this relatively wealthy and well-ordered town that has become infamous for hosting bin Laden for so long, it's hard to find anyone prepared to say they supported the American operation. Many don't believe bin Laden ever lived in the house, reflecting the popularity of conspiracy theories in a country where the rulers often obscure the truth.

Umair Ishaq, who grows vegetables close to the empty lot, said he remained angry about the raid.

"You go there to the compound, there is a still a fragrance from those who were killed," he said, referring to Islamic belief that those who die as a martyr to the faith give off a sweet smell at death. "They were innocent and they were martyrs."

Most of the rubble has been hauled away from the site, on which local children now play cricket. Farmers cross over it on their way to the fields, and on a recent day older boys were smashing away at bits of masonry, trying to extract the metal poles inside so they could sell them.

After the helicopter-borne operation, the country's generals retaliated by kicking out U.S. special forces trainers operating close to the Afghan border, cutting intelligence cooperation with the CIA and restricting the travel of foreign diplomats and aid workers.

Authorities arrested a Pakistani doctor who assisted America in tracking down bin Laden. The doctor remains in detention, facing possible treason charges. The country has made not made public the arrests of anyone connected to bin Laden's time on the run.

Relations had barely recovered when in November U.S. airstrikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. Pakistan immediately blocked U.S. and NATO supply routes across its soil into Afghanistan. They remain shut, despite U.S. attempts to renegotiate a new deal with Pakistan.

Even before the raid, anti-American sentiment was so rampant in Pakistan that anyone who opposed Washington was lauded by many sections of society. Bin Laden was no exception, even as his followers carried out numerous bloody attacks inside the country.

"OBL was considered as a hero by the general public at large, and his death generated a lot of sympathy," said Aftab Khan Sherpao, a lawmaker from the northwest who has three times been targeted by Islamist militant suicide bombers. "No one has been able to control and contain his supporters."

Despite reservations about Pakistan's commitment to U.S. goals in Afghanistan and doubts over how bin Laden managed to evade capture for so long, the Obama administration feels it has little choice but to ally itself with the country. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and will remain important in the fight against al-Qaida in years to come.

Many believe Islamabad's cooperation will be essential for getting any Afghan peace deal to stick, allowing the U.S. to withdraw troops.


Khan reported from Abbottabad, Brummitt from Islamabad.

World Leaders React To OBL's Death
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  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

    "Getting rid of bin Laden is good for the cause of peace worldwide but what counts is to overcome the discourse and the methods -- the violent methods -- that were created and encouraged by bin Laden and others in the world," Palestinian Authority (PA) spokesman Ghassan Khatib is <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted</a> by Reuters as saying.

  • Palestinian Hamas Leader Ismail Haniyeh

    "We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior," Ismail Haniyeh told reporters,<a href="" target="_hplink"> according</a> to Reuters. "We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood."

  • Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

    "Osama bin Laden's death illustrates the resolve of the international community including Pakistan to fight and eliminate terrorism. It constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world," the Pakistani government said in a statement. "It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country. Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism."

  • Saudi Arabia King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz

    Saudi Arabia said it hopes the killing of militant leader and former Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden will boost efforts to fight terrorism. <a href="" target="_hplink">According</a> to the Associated Press, the Saudi Press Agency carried an official statement Monday expressing hope that bin Laden's death with be a "step that supports the international efforts against terrorism."

  • Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf

    "America coming to our territory and taking action is a violation of our sovereignty. Handling and execution of the operation [by U.S. forces] is not correct," Musharraf <a href="" target="_hplink">reportedly</a> said in an interview. "The Pakistani government should have been kept in the loop...foreign troops crossing the border into Pakistan will not be liked by the people of Pakistan. U.S. forces should not have crossed over into Pakistan."

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai

    "Once again I call on NATO to say that the war on terror is not in Afghanistan. Osama was not in Afghanistan: they found him in Pakistan," Karzai said said of the discovery that the world's most wanted man was holed up in a garrison town in Pakistan, <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. "The war on terror is not in Afghan villages, the war on terror is not in the houses of innocent Afghans, the war on terror is not in the bombardment and killing of Afghan children and women, but in the safe havens of terrorism outside Afghanistan."

  • Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari

    "We, like many people in the world, are delighted to see an end to his mentality and his devious ideology," Zebari is <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted</a> by the BBC as saying. "Iraqis suffered a great deal at the hands of this man and his terrorist organization. Thousands of Iraqis were murdered and killed because of his ideologies. We as Iraqis have suffered enormously as a result of Al Qaeda and its leader."

  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood condemned Osama bin Laden's killing as an "assassination." A statement released Monday said the group "is against violence in general, against assassinations and in favor of fair trials," <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to the Associated Press.

  • British Prime Minister David Cameron

    "Of course, it does not mark the end of the threat we face from extremist terror. Indeed, we will have to be particularly vigilant in the weeks ahead. But it is, I believe, a massive step forward," Cameron is <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted</a> by Haaretz as saying in a televised statement, while noting that bin Laden's death would be "welcomed right across our country."

  • Turkish President Abdullah Gul

    Gul said the news should serve as a warning to terrorist leaders elsewhere, <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. "This news shows that the fate of terrorists and the leaders of terrorist organizations is to be caught in the end, dead or alive," he said. "That the most dangerous and sophisticated [terrorist] leader was caught this way, should be a lesson to everyone."

  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

    "The Kremlin welcomes the serious success the United States achieved in the war against international terrorism," Medvedev said in a statement,<a href="" target="_hplink"> according</a> to the AFP. "Retribution inevitably reaches all terrorists." He went on to say Russia was "ready" to step up its cooperation with the U.S. in the fight against international terror networks: "Only a joint and united fight against global terrorism can achieve substantial results. Russia is ready to step up this type of cooperation."

  • Former U.S. Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice

    "This clearly shows that the president and his team did a superb job of pulling all of this together," Rice is <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted </a>by the AFP as saying."I'm very grateful to them for closing this chapter." She went on to call the successful weekend military strike on bin Laden's compound "a good story for continuity across two presidencies...what it really shows is that the United States will be persistent and patient. Our reach is long. You may be able to harm us, but you will ultimately not defeat us."

  • Former U.S. President George W. Bush

    "This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001," Bush said in a statement as <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted</a> by CBS. "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

  • Former U.S. President Bill Clinton

    "This is a profoundly important moment not just for the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11 and in Al Qaeda's other attacks but for people all over the world who want to build a common future of peace, freedom, and cooperation for our children," Clinton said in a statement, <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to <em>USA Today</em>. "I congratulate the President, the National Security team and the members of our armed forces on bringing Osama bin Laden to justice after more than a decade of murderous Al Qaeda attacks."

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel

    Merkel described the event as a "decisive strike against Al Qaeda," via her spokesman Steffen Seibert, <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to Dow Jones. "Last night, the forces of freedom were successful." Still, international terrorism "has not yet been defeated", and "we will all have to remain alert."

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy

    "The scourge of terrorism has suffered a historic defeat but it's not the end of Al Qaeda," Sarkozy warned in a statement, <a href="" target="_hplink">according</a> to Haaretz. "The combat against the criminals who claim to form part of it should continue without respite and unite all the states who are victims of these crimes."

  • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard

    "I welcome the death of Osama bin Laden," Gillard <a href="" target="_hplink">said</a>. I welcome this news." She went on to confirm the government is updating travel advisories, warning Australians abroad to "exercise enhanced vigilance in terms of their personal security."

  • Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram

    The killing of Osama bin Laden near Islamabad is proof that "terrorists belonging to different organizations find sanctuary in Pakistan," Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram is <a href="" target="_hplink">quoted</a> by the BBC as saying.


Filed by Jade Walker  |