Pakistan detained, then released, many after bin Laden raid

ABOTTABAD, Pakistan — In the two months since a U.S. special forces raid killed Osama bin Laden in this town, Pakistani authorities have arrested more than 30 people who either were suspected of having ties to the terrorist leader or were thought to have assisted U.S. authorities in tracking him down.

Pakistani authorities largely have been silent on whom they've detained, but the identities of some of those arrested are known. Most have been released.

At least five people suspected not of aiding bin Laden but of helping the CIA spy on the al Qaida chief's compound were arrested more recently. These include a retired army officer widely reported as neighbor Maj. Amir Aziz, whose house with two watchtowers would be an ideal place from which to observe the bin Laden compound. He, however, told McClatchy that he'd never been detained.

Coming reluctantly to the gate of his house to speak to a journalist, Aziz said he'd retired from the army.

"It's not me," he said, referring to news reports of an arrested army major, before shutting the gate.

A local police officer who'd arrived at the raid scene early, before Pakistani military units responded to it, is still in custody from the initial arrests.

The contractors who built the house, brothers Noor Muhammad and Gul Mada Khan, were arrested, then released and now have disappeared; it isn't known whether they were detained once more or they've simply fled Abbottabad.

A local man, Atta-ur-Rahman, known as Lala, who'd chopped down trees next to the bin Laden compound in the days before the U.S. raid, was arrested but has since been released. It had been suspected that he'd cut down the trees to clear the area for the American helicopters to land.

Wazir Dill, a doctor who'd treated children from the bin Laden house at his Abbottabad clinic, and a health worker, Bakht Jan, who'd visited the house to offer vaccinations for the children (she wasn't let in), were among those arrested and then set free.

The police also have released Shamraiz, who lived opposite the compound and worked there as an occasional gardener, but he declined to be interviewed.

Fahad Ali and Abbas Ali, Abbottabad residents taken in for their association with a religious organization, have been freed. So has Tahir Javed, who lived close to the compound and went over to help put out the fire that broke out during the raid May 2 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

An auto mechanic, Muhammad Babar, who used to repair the two vehicles at compound, was detained but has since been released.

A porter at the Ayub Medical Complex hospital in Abbottabad, Samar Shehzad, who was suspected of working as a driver for the bin Laden household, has been released after what seems to have been a case of mistaken identity. The man who delivered milk to the bin Ladens also has been let go.

At least three Abbottabad residents of Middle Eastern nationalities were picked up, along with 10 to 15 Afghan residents. Their fates are unknown.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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