New drone used in Bin Laden mission
Published 19/05/2011 | 07:35
A new type of stealth drone flew dozens of missions deep into Pakistan to gather intelligence on Osama bin Laden's house before the raid to kill him, according to American officials.
Predator and Reaper drones are frequently spotted over the country's tribal areas before firing Hellfire missiles at terrorist targets. Officials said the CIA used a newer model equipped with stealth technology to fly undetected at a high altitude to provide hours of video footage of the suspect compound in Abbottabad, 30 miles from the Pakistani capital and well beyond the usual operating area for the drones.
"It's not like you can just park a Predator overhead -- the Pakistanis would know," a former US official told 'The Washington Post'.
The secret flights -- possibly involving a Lockheed Martin model known as the RQ-170 Sentinel -- are the latest evidence of the mistrust between Pakistan and the US, and show how CIA agents kept their Pakistani colleagues in the dark.
Pakistani intelligence services have been accused in the past of tipping off members of the Afghan Taliban as US forces homed in on their location.
Pakistan's military and intelligence hierarchy is also coming under fire at home for having allowed the US operation, seen as a breach of Pakistan's sovereignty.
The scale of the task they face in fighting extremism was evident Wednesday. More than 70 militants attacked a police checkpoint outside the north-western city of Peshawar, killing two. (© Daily Telegraph, London)