A white Suzuki car that finally led to bin Laden: NYT

May 3rd, 2011 - 3:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 3 (IANS) A white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, in July last year was the vital clue that finally led to where Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was hiding. The man in the car was bin Laden’s most trusted courier, whom US sleuths had been tailing for months, a media report said.

Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind the Suzuki and wrote down the car’s licence plate number, the New York Times reported.

Ultimately, after weeks of surveillance, the courier led them to a sprawling compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, at the end of a long dirt road. The house was surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet, some 120 km from the Pakistani capital.

American intelligence operatives felt they were onto something big, perhaps even bin Laden himself.

The Al Qaeda chief was killed in a top secret operation by US commandos in the Abbottabad house Monday.

The raid on bin Laden’s hideout was the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work, including the interrogation of CIA detainees in secret prisons in eastern Europe, where sometimes what was not said was as useful as what was.

Years before the Sep 11, 2001 attacks transformed bin Laden into the world’s most feared terrorist, the CIA had begun compiling a detailed dossier about the major players inside his global terror network.

It wasn’t until after 2002, when the agency began rounding up Al Qaeda operatives - and subjecting them to hours of brutal interrogation sessions in secret overseas prisons - that they finally began filling in the gaps about the foot soldiers, couriers and money men bin Laden relied on.

Prisoners in US custody told stories of a trusted courier. When the Americans ran the man’s pseudonym past two top-level detainees - the chief planner of the Sep 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Al Qaeda’s operational chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi - the men claimed never to have heard his name. This raised suspicions among US interrogators that the two men were lying and that the courier probably was an important figure, the New York Times said.

Once the CIA got the courier’s family name, the National Security Agency began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family in a Persian Gulf state and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got his full name.

After spotting the courier last July in the Suzuki, the CIA sleuths tailed him over the next month throughout central Pakistan.

Intelligence agencies also poured over satellite images of the compound in Abbottabad to determine a “pattern of life” that might decide whether the operation would be worth the risk, the daily said.

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