Osama bin Laden killed, Pakistan kept in dark (Roundup)

May 2nd, 2011 - 9:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington/Islamabad, May 2 (IANS) Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted terror icon who orchestrated the 9/11 attack on the United States through his Al Qaeda outfit, was killed in Abbottabad near the Pakistan capital by US-led forces, ending one of the world’s biggest and costliest manhunts that at one time seemed to be going up in smoke.

Islamabad was pointedly not involved in the military operation on their soil but was informed about it later.

The death of the world’s most sought after fugitive was announced by US President Barack Obama shortly before midnight in Washington, capping a meticulous intelligence and military operation that culminated in a swift, 40-minute assault on a $1 million mansion just a stone’s throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, in Abbottabad, about 120 km from Islamabad.

American choppers flew in in the dead of night, swooped down on the barricaded building that was sheltering Osama and killed him at close quarters. Osama, 54, who carried a bounty of $25 million, was shot in the head when he resisted, it was reported.

It appeared that the body of the terrorist, who had eluded the combined US-led forces for almost two decades since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York, was put in a chopper and then buried at sea according to Islamic rites.

“Justice has been done,” declared Obama from the White House, describing how American military and CIA operatives finally cornered Osama through a trusted courier who had come to their attention four years ago. But the concrete lead came only in August 2010.

“For over two decades, bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” Obama said on television as cheering crowds gathered outside the gates of the White House waving American flags and chanting “USA! USA!”.

It was a cathartic moment for many Americans, traumatised by the Sep 11, 2001 terror attack when two hijacked aircraft slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center while a third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon. More than 3,000 people were killed.

There was spontaneous celebration in Washington as well as New York as news came in of what is perhaps the biggest story of the decade. Hundreds of people swarmed the road and sidewalk in front of the White House at midnight, waving American flags, shouting “America, America” and reacting emotionally to the news.

“(There’s) no closure, but at last some justice for the murder of 3,000 Americans, finally,” CNN quoted Jim Riches, whose son died in 9/11, as saying.

Obama said: “The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort…We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”

Pakistan, which had consistently denied harbouring Osama, called it a major setback to terror organisations around the world. It is believed that the ailing Osama had been kept in one place because he needed frequent dialysis treatment.

The Foreign Office 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.”

But there was consternation amongst people in the country. Was the Pakistani government kept in the loop about the covert operation to nab the terror mastermind? Did it know that Osama had been living in Abbottabad, a city with heavy military presence?

It didn’t appear to be so.

“We shared our intelligence on this compound (in Abbottabad) with no other country, including Pakistan,” the New York Times quoted a senior US administration official as saying.

The Times said that even after signing the formal orders authorising the raid, the president chose to keep Pakistan’s government in the dark about the operation.

An official stressed that only a small group of people in the US knew about the operation when it was launched.

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said he was surprised Osama was in Abbottabad. Musharraf, who was the Pakistan president during the 9/11 strike, told CNN-IBN that the operation by US forces was a “violation of our sovereignty” — an implicit admission that Islamabad did not know about the American raid.

An Abbottabad resident told journalists that people were shocked to know that Osama had been living in their midst for long.

Significantly, Obama said he called Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari after Osama was killed.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has had deep ties with both the Taliban, which sheltered Osama until 2001, and the Al Qaeda.

Osama bin Laden was born in Saudi Arabia in 1957, the 17th of 52 children in a family that had struck it rich in the construction business.

His father, Mohamed bin Laden, was a native of Yemen who immigrated to Saudi Arabia as a child. He became a billionaire by building his company into the largest construction firm in the Saudi kingdom.

By 1991, Osama, his four wives and seven children shifted to Sudan. His millions got him new friends. And his new enemy was the US.

In Sudan, thousands of Aghan veterans joined the billionaire heir, initiating the real work of developing Al Qaeda, or “the Base”, into a force capable of hitting American interests around the world.

He eluded capture for years, once reportedly slipping out of a training camp in Afghanistan just hours before a barrage of US cruise missiles destroyed it, CNN said.

One man’s story of bloodshed and terror has ended. But concerns are that there will be others to carry on from where he left off.

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