Daily brief: Pakistan faces questions over bin Laden
Uncomfortable scrutiny for Pakistan After the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden early Monday morning in Abbottabad, the small military garrison city some 40 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, speculation is rife about how the al-Qaeda leader could have been hiding in plain sight virtually under the noses of the Pakistani military, ...
Uncomfortable scrutiny for Pakistan
Uncomfortable scrutiny for Pakistan
After the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden early Monday morning in Abbottabad, the small military garrison city some 40 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, speculation is rife about how the al-Qaeda leader could have been hiding in plain sight virtually under the noses of the Pakistani military, and Obama administration officials say they are investigating whether bin Laden had help from Pakistani authorities over the years (NYT, Post, Reuters, WSJ, McClatchy, FT, Guardian, Independent, Reuters, Dawn, AP). U.S. officials said Pakistani officials were not told about the raid, which involved four American helicopters entering Pakistani airspace undetected from Afghanistan, until after it occurred (AP, NYT, WSJ, Post, AP).
Pakistani officials, including President Asif Ali Zardari, have maintained they didn’t know bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad compound, while top Obama counterterrorism official John Brennan called it "inconceivable" that the terrorist leader did not have "some kind of support system" within Pakistan (AP, Post, WSJ). Some Pentagon and C.I.A. officials were skeptical that Pakistan knew, while others were more suspicious (NYT). The Pakistani military has not officially commented on bin Laden’s death, though an official with the intelligence service the ISI said the agency was embarrassed and a military official conceded, "It is an intelligence failure" (BBC, Dawn).
Residents of Abbottabad say the massive compound stood out in its middle-class neighborhood, though many were shocked to learn bin Laden had been living there (LAT, NYT, Times, Guardian, WSJ). The town had been better known as a hub for tourists and the Pakistani military (Post).
Inside the raid
More details are emerging about the Abbottabad raid, in which bin Laden was code named ‘Geronimo:’ the armed al-Qaeda leader was shot in the left eye after reportedly using a woman who may have been one of his wives as a human shield, one of the helicopters malfunctioned inside the compound and had to be destroyed, and members of the Obama administration national security team watched in real-time (National Journal, Politico, AJE, Times, Tel, CNN, ABC, Guardian, LAT, WSJ, NYT, Post, Dawn, Politico). Earlier options to kill bin Laden included a bombing raid on the three-story compound, but the Obama administration opted to use the specially trained Navy SEAL Team Six to carry out the attack. The other men who died in the assault were reportedly two brothers believed to be bin Laden’s couriers and one of his sons (AFP, Post).
The trail to bin Laden reportedly ran through one of these trusted couriers, Sheikh Abu Ahmed, a Pakistani man born in Kuwait, whose importance to al-Qaeda reportedly became known to U.S. intelligence based on information from detainees in Guantanamo including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Farraj al-Libi, who was captured in 2005 (AP, ABC, NYT, WSJ, Post, Guardian, Post, McClatchy). Ahmed reportedly had a phone call with someone being monitored by U.S. intelligence last summer, and authorities started watching him. Last July, Pakistani agents working for the C.I.A. reportedly identified the license plate number of Ahmed’s white Suzuki near Peshawar, which ultimately led the U.S. to the Abbottabad compound (NYT, AP). Ahmed was reportedly killed in the raid (AP, Guardian). The U.S. is currently investigating the computers and other material retrieved from Abbottabad (AP). For more on the hunt for bin Laden, read our sister newsletter, the Legal War on Terror (FP).
Then what happened?
After bin Laden’s death, his body was reportedly taken out of Pakistan by helicopter, and he was identified using genetic kinship analysis, a type of DNA testing, which U.S. officials said showed a "virtually 100 percent match of the body" with DNA collected from as-yet-unidentified bin Laden family members (Post, NYT, LAT). The U.S. also identified bin Laden via facial recognition and testimony from one of his wives, who survived the raid (Post, Post).
After being ritually prepared for a Muslim burial, bin Laden’s body was dumped off the U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson into the Arabian Sea (Post, NYT, ABC, CBS). Islamic scholars have been split on whether the sea burial, designed to avoid the establishment of a shrine for bin Laden’s supporters and which reportedly occurred after Saudi Arabia refused to take the body, was insulting or appropriate. The U.S. has not yet released visual or forensic proof of bin Laden’s death, and officials are said to be weighing whether to release post-mortem photos and videos (ABC, Post, Politico).
What’s the reaction been?
Jihadis around the world reacted with expressions of grief and disbelief at bin Laden’s death, along with promises of revenge and resilience (NYT, AFP, ABC, AP). Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed reportedly led special prayers for bin Laden in Lahore earlier today (Reuters). The Taliban in Afghanistan said they had not received confirmation from the group’s leaders about bin Laden’s death, and in any case, "The activity of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was unimportant. All activities were and continue to be conducted by the Taliban" (Time). The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan threatened revenge against both Pakistan and the United States, stating that, "Pakistan will be the prime target" (AFP, ET, Geo). Twenty five foreign fighters were killed crossing the border from Pakistan into the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan in what may be the first sign of preparation for retaliatory attacks (Reuters). Speculation now turns to the leadership succession question in al-Qaeda (Post, NYT).
Across the Middle East, reactions were mixed, "from anger in the most conservative locales of Lebanon to jubilation among Shiite Muslims in Iraq" (NYT, FT, Reuters, Politico). In Quetta, Pakistan, hundreds took to the streets in honor of bin Laden, burning American flags (AFP). In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai reiterated his position that the main terrorist threat in the region comes from Pakistan, and the debate is turning toward the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan (WSJ, NYT). Iranian officials said that following bin Laden’s death, the U.S. has "no more excuse" to be in the region (AFP). And former Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf said the raid violated Pakistani sovereignty (CNN-IBN). Read more about world reactions in yesterday’s daily brief (FP).
A long time coming
Gary Weddle, a middle school science teacher in Washington, vowed after al-Qaeda’s attacks on September 11, 2001, not to shave his beard until bin Laden was captured or killed (Time, AP). Yesterday, he shaved it off.
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