The hunt for Osama bin Laden might have ended eight years earlier had a Pakistani traffic policeman spotted the world's most wanted man in a car he had stopped for speeding.
The revelation is made by Pakistan's official investigation, obtained last night by Al Jazeera, into how Bin Laden managed to live undetected in the country for almost a decade.
In its report, the Abbottabad Commission concluded that Pakistan's military and government missed several opportunities to close in on Bin Laden. They may have come closest when the al-Qa'ida leader was living in the Swat Valley during 2002 and 2003.
According to the testimony of Maryam, the wife of Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, one of Bin Laden's two trusted bodyguards, they would make occasional visits to the local bazaar.
She told investigators that on one trip their car was pulled over for speeding by a policeman, but that her husband "quickly settled the matter".
Whether the police officer was paid off or failed to spot the passenger is not explained.
The investigation, set up after US Navy SEALs killed Bin Laden and al-Kuwaiti during a raid on the terrorist's Abbotabad villa in 2011, delivers a scathing verdict on Pakistan's efforts.
"Culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government can more or less be conclusively established."
And far from being the whitewash many Pakistanis expected, it even calls on the country's leadership to apologise for its failings.
"This (was) a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country," it said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)