Home video reveals real Bin Laden
US to demand officials hand over Mullah Omar and al-Zawahiri
Published 08/05/2011 | 05:00
Extraordinary home-made video of a private Osama bin Laden last night showed the global terrorist supremo as a frail figure with an unkempt grey-white beard, rocking back and forth as he watched himself on satellite news.
The footage, apparently recorded at his Pakistani hideout, was among a cache of videos captured by the US commandos who killed him in a night raid last week.
It is in stark contrast to the image Bin Laden sought to portray to his followers and enemies in other seized videos, in which he had dyed his hair and beard black and wore spotless clothing for the propaganda recordings.
Five clips released by the Pentagon reveal that, even in hiding, he was intent on crafting a carefully managed image for public viewing in his terrorist videos. A senior US intelligence official said that a task force drawn from several American agencies is poring through the trove of material recovered from Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. He described it as the biggest intelligence haul in the fight against terrorism.
But the most striking element was the collection of what is already being dubbed "Osama's home videos".
The most revealing shows a Bin Laden that was clearly never meant to be seen outside his inner circle. Looking older than his 54 years, he sits on the floor and uses a remote control to flick through satellite coverage of himself.
The footage begins with a close-up of a small, old TV perched on a table. It then pans away, revealing an undecorated room, then the first sight of Bin Laden outside a propaganda video in more than a decade emerges. He has a brown blanket drawn around his shoulders, is wearing a black wool cap and his beard is flecked white and grey. He flicks between images on the screen that are familiar to the rest of the world of his younger self, in camouflage clothing and clutching an assault rifle.
In contrast, the other four released clips show an image-conscious manicured figure ready for his public pronouncements. His beard has been dyed deep black, he is wearing a spotless white cap and shirt and yellow tunic and is reading from a script.
The lighting has been carefully arranged and, in the longest clip, he is speaking in front of a plain blue wall. The recording, 'Message to the American People', was made last October or November.
But there were no final words from beyond the grave for Bin Laden as the US did not release the soundtrack, intent on denying him a last message. The remaining three shorter clips were apparently out-takes as he prepared the videos. In one, the lighting fades and he glances off-camera after apparently misreading his lines.
US intelligence analysts are urgently sifting through the computer hard-drives, thumb drives, mobile phones and other paperwork seized last Monday.
The videos were released as reports emerged that Bin Laden had been hiding deep inside Pakistan for more than seven years.
Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, one of his wives, has told Pakistani investigators that the Saudi terrorist and his family first lived for two-and-a-half years in a quiet hill village, Chak Shah Mohammad. She said they moved five years ago to the nearby garrison town of Abbottabad, where her husband was killed.
If confirmed, her claim will fuel US anger that the terrorist mastermind was apparently living under the protection of senior Pakistani military intelligence figures since 2003. The US has delivered a stark behind-the-scenes ultimatum to Pakistan to hand over Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda number two, and Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, or face more US raids on their soil to capture or kill them.
"We have absolutely no doubt that very high-up Pakistani elements were sheltering Bin Laden and are still are sheltering Zawahiri and Mullah Omar," said a senior US intelligence source. "It is being made very clear at the highest back-channel levels that enough is enough.
"The message is that when we find them, we will go after them, and it would be much better for Pakistan's reputation and for their aid budget if they acted first."
The US has been secretly bolstering its deployment in the region of hunter-killer special forces units, such as the Navy Seal team that killed Bin Laden. It is being made clear to Islamabad that more will be deployed on Pakistani soil if they do not cooperate.
Washington has also demanded the identities of top Pakistani intelligence operatives, as CIA analysts sifting through the material seized from the compound try to determine who had contact with him and his aides while living in Pakistan.
The blunt "name names" message was delivered during a tense meeting between Pakistani officials and a US envoy who travelled to Islamabad after the raid.
There are risks to the confrontational strategy as the US is dependent on Pakistan for supply lines to Nato forces in Afghanistan. But Washington believes now is the time to intensify pressure after the revelation that Bin Laden had been living deep inside the country. Senior US intelligence officials have cancelled engagements this weekend and are at their desks as analysts pore through the seized material -- described as an "al-Qaeda playbook".
The intelligence community has already obtained "positive intelligence" that is helping narrow down the locations of core al-Qaeda leaders, including al Zawahiri, who is widely tipped to emerge as Bin Laden's successor.