Bin Laden's daughter saw U.S. troops kill him, official says

McClatchy NewspapersMay 3, 2011 

ABBOTABAD, Pakistan — Osama bin Laden's young daughter has told Pakistani officials that she saw her father shot and killed by armed Americans when they raided a house here early Monday, an official with Pakistan's spy agency said Tuesday.

The official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, said the daughter, whom he described as being 12 or 13 years old, was one of eight or nine children in the house when a team of U.S. Navy SEALs stormed the complex by helicopter.

"We have no independent confirmation of Osama bin Laden being there or dying there except what we got from the daughter," said the official, a member of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

The official said that based on interviews with the daughter and others in the house Pakistani authorities now believe that bin Laden had been living in the Abbottabad compound for "some months."

The Pakistani official's comments came as new details emerged about the men who built the house and were also killed, and as Pakistan broke its silence and denounced the raid as a "unauthorized unilateral action" that "cannot be taken as a rule."

Local residents said the two men who built the house identified themselves usually as Arshad and Tariq Khan, though they also went by the names of Rashid, Ahmed and Nadeem. They were ethnic Pashtuns from near Peshawar, Pakistan, residents said they were told. Most people who live in Abbottabad aren't Pashtun.

Arshad, the older brother, was in his 40s, chubby and had a "goaty"-style beard, while the younger man, Tariq, had a mustache, residents said.

The two men explained the compound's unusually thick walls by saying they were involved in a violent feud in their home village — something not unusual in that region — and that they needed to prevent their women from being seen — in accordance with strict Islamic custom.

Residents here said the two were friendly, and often could be seen with children buying soft drinks and candy at a nearby shop. Though they didn't socialize with locals, they did take part in the local custom of visiting neighbors to offer condolences for a death or celebrate weddings and births, residents said.

They had one immutable rule, however — when children playing nearby accidently knocked a ball into the compound, they weren't allowed to collect it.

Residents confirmed U.S. officials' claims that the house was built in 2005.

"I worked on the house construction as a laborer. There was nothing unusual about how it was built, except the size of the compound wall," said Rasheed, 32, a shopkeeper who said the brothers frequently visited his shop with five to seven children that he assumed were theirs. "Because of the wall, people thought that they were smugglers, not terrorists."

Rasheed said the wall, which is at least 12 feet tall and topped with barbed wire, is about three feet thick.

Pakistan security allowed a swarm of Pakistani and foreign reporters as far as the wall on Tuesday to inspect the house. Excited local children ran around collecting burned parts from an American helicopter that was destroyed after it became disabled during the raid.

Two security cameras that neighbors said had once been present were missing. Next to the house was a large compound, which was empty. This is where locals said two cows and some goats had been kept.

The house defied the luxurious description that U.S. officials had offered. Its paint was peeling and it appeared to have no air conditioning, which would have made it a sweltering place in the summer months for bin Laden.

The brothers drove two vehicles, a small white Suzuki van and an SUV, said Zain Muhammad, an 80-year-old man who lives in a tiny ramshackle house 10 yards across the street from the bin Laden home.

That white Suzuki may be the key to tracking down bin Laden. According to U.S. officials, that vehicle was tracked traveling from Peshawar to the house.

"We never saw any women or any Arabs," Muhammad said. "I didn't notice any particular comings and goings from the house at night."

But the Pakistani spy agency official said at least two women had been left in the house after the American raid. One of those, who authorities believe is a Yemeni and one of bin Laden's wives, was shot in the leg and was treated at a local military hospital. No details were offered on the identify of the second.

The wife and children remain in Pakistani custody, though the official declined to say where. CIA director Leon Panetta, speaking to NBC News, confirmed that Pakistan had detained some members of bin Laden's family at the compound.

"We have asked access to those individuals so we can continue to gather intelligence," Panetta said. "And the word we got back from the Pakistanis is that we would have that access."

Pakistani officials, however, remain unhappy and deeply embarrassed by the raid, which came after years of Pakistani insistence that bin Laden and other terrorist leaders weren't hiding in their country.

In a statement, the government confirmed that U.S. officials hadn't told them in advance about the raid.

"The government of Pakistan expresses its deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the government of the United States carried out this operation without prior information or authorization from the government of Pakistan," said the statement, which was issued by Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "This event of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule."

The statement said it had been providing the U.S. with intelligence since 2009 that eventually led the U.S. to the Abbottabad compound.

Both Pakistan and the U.S. have insisted that Pakistani authorities weren't told in advance of the raid, an assertion that's been greeted with skepticism by some who doubt that U.S. forces couldn't have arrived without detection. Some analysts have suggested that the claim that Pakistan wasn't informed was intended to prevent a backlash against the Pakistani government over the raid from Islamist extremists, a large and influential part of Pakistan's political scene.

But the foreign ministry said that U.S. helicopters had little difficulty reaching Abbottabad from Afghanistan without being detected by Pakistani forces because of "blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain."

"U.S. helicopters' undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the mountainous terrain, efficacious use of latest technology and 'nap of the earth' flying techniques," the statement said.

The ISI official sought to explain Pakistan's failure to detect bin Laden's presence at the compound by saying security forces had raided the compound in 2003, while the house was under construction, on the trail of another extremist. The intelligence service didn't subsequently monitor the house, believing no one would use it as a hideout after the raid, the ISI official said.

His account, however, was contradicted by U.S. officials in Washington, who provided aerial photographs showing that no buildings existed on the site in 2004. Rasheed, the shopkeeper who worked on the construction of the house, said he'd never heard of any such raid taking place.

MORE FROM MCCLATCHY

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Bin Laden compound raid puts Navy SEALs in spotlight

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