Sunday 24 September 2017

'Prince of terror' escaped during raid on Bin Laden

Rob Crilly in Islamabad and Alex Spillius in Washington

Pakistani security officials believe a relation of Osama bin Laden disappeared during the raid by a crack team of US Navy Seals that killed the al-Qa'ida leader, deepening the confusion over the fate of a son regarded as the 'Crown Prince of Terror'.

Three of bin Laden's widows, currently in Pakistani custody, have told interrogators that one son has not been seen since the operation on May 2.

The fresh details raised fears that the al-Qa'ida leader's youngest son and closest confidant, Hamza, may have escaped capture.

The White House initially claimed that Hamza (20) had been killed at the house in Abbottabad, about 30 miles from Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Officials later said his 22 year old brother Khalid had been killed instead.

Last night an intelligence source in Islamabad said that shifting accounts of what had happened, coupled with the widows' testimony, left them unable to account for one person they believed had been living in the house.

"We don't know if it was his son. Someone, one person, may have been in the compound that we now cannot account for," he said.

Bin Laden had as many as 24 children. No one knows for certain who was in the compound where he had lived.

Terror

Hamza's mother Khairiah Sabar has been widely reported to be among the family members in Pakistani custody.

Thought to be the youngest of the Saudi-born terrorist's sons, Hamza has been described as the 'Crown Prince of Terror' by Patrick Mercer, a British Conservative MP.

He featured on an extremist website to mark the third anniversary of the July 7 London bombings in which 52 people died, reading a poem calling for "destruction" of America, Britain, France and Denmark.

Intelligence agencies believe he was being groomed as a possible future leader of al-Qa'ida.

He was also implicated in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister, in 2007.

More than a week after the wives and 12 children were picked up, CIA interrogators have still not been given the chance to question them.

US officials said they believed they would soon be allowed access, but a Pakistani government official denied that permission had been granted.

Amid continuing tensions between Islamabad and Washington, US officials have blamed the ISI, the Pakistani secret service, for leaking the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad in retaliation.

But they said that the agency veteran, who spends most of his time in the US embassy, would not be withdrawn from the country.

It also emerged that the US Navy Seals who killed bin Laden had permission to fight their way out of trouble and kill Pakistani forces if they were challenged. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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