Islamabad: A former Pakistani intelligence officer disclosed the hideout of Osama bin Laden to CIA in exchange of USD 25 million bounty on the head of the al-Qaeda chief, who was living as prisoner under ISI protection in the garrison town of Abbottabad, according to a report.
“In August 2010 a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, then the CIA’s station chief at the US embassy in Islamabad. He offered to tell the CIA where to find bin Laden in return for the reward that Washington had offered in 2001,” the Dawn reported, citing American investigative journalist and author Seymour M Hersh. The intelligence official, Hersh said, was a military man who is now living in Washington and working for the CIA as a consultant. “I cannot tell you more about him,” he said. The US confirmed the information provided by the official and put the compound under satellite surveillance. Americans later informed the ISI which set up a cell in Ghazi, Tarbela, where “one man from the SEALs and two communicators” practised the raid before executing the operation, Hersh said, adding that it was difficult decision but Pakistan was ultimately taken on board and told about the script to kill Osama.
Hersh said that whatever the Obama administration told about the operation to kill Osama was part of fiction and the real story was totally different. “The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (the then army chief) and Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha (the then ISI chief) – were never informed of the US mission,” he told Dawn. When the Americans contacted the Pakistani government and asked for Osama, the ISI insisted that he be killed and his death should be announced a week after the operation. Hersh said the Saudi government also knew about Osama’s presence it Abbottabad and had advised the Pakistanis to keep him as a prisoner. “Osama was an ISI prisoner and never moved except under their supervision,” he said.
The Americans were required to say that the al-Qaeda chief was found in a mountainous region in the Hindu Kush so that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan could be blamed for keeping him, Hersh said, adding that the ISI wanted him dead because “they did not want a witness”. Hersh said President Barack Obama did not consult Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha before releasing the cover story that he shared with his nation in a live broadcast. “The cover story trashed Pakistan. It was very embarrassing for them,” said Hersh. “Pakistan has a good army,not a bad army, but the cover story made it look bad.”
Hersh also said that Dr Shakil Afridi, the physician now jailed in Peshawar for helping CIA trace down Osama’s hideout, was a CIA asset but he did not know about the operation. Afridi was used as a cover to hide the real story, he said. Osama was killed in Abbottabad on the night of May 2, 2011, in a covert raid conducted by US Navy Seal.
Hersh’s story published in the London Review of Books on Sunday described the official US version of the so-called ‘Operation Neptune Spear’ as a work of fiction, a fairy-tale. He noted that the White House still maintains the mission was an all-American affair, and that senior generals of the Pakistan Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were not told about the raid in advance. “This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll (the author of ‘Alice in the Wonderland’),” he said. The Americans, and the Pakistanis, wanted to protect Amir Aziz, a doctor and a major in the Pakistani army.
The ISI had moved Dr Aziz close to the compound where they had kept Osama because he was on his deathbed when found. Hersh also said that former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates disagreed with the cover-up story and wanted the US to respect the arrangement they had made with Pakistan. “President Obama changed the game because he was running for re-election,” he said, adding that the two-hour delay in the speech was caused by an internal debate. He said according to Pakistani official Osama had lived undetected from 2001 to 2006 with some of his wives and children in the Hindu Kush mountains, and that “the ISI got to him by paying some of the local tribal people to betray him”.
The official also told the CIA station chief that Osama was very ill. Pakistan officials denied that Dr Aziz had any connection to Osama, but the retired official said that the physician had been rewarded with a share of the USD 25 million reward the US had put up because the DNA sample had showed conclusively that it was the al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad.