Monday 11 December 2017

Bin Laden support network examined

Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was shot in the head by US special forces in Pakistan (AP)
Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was shot in the head by US special forces in Pakistan (AP)
John Brennan said the United States aims to build upon its killing of Osama bin Laden to destroy his al Qaida terrorist organisation
A soldier stands on top of the house where it is believed al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan (AP)

America has said it is "inconceivable" that Osama bin Laden did not have a support system in Pakistan which enabled him to remain in the country for long periods.

White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed Washington did not inform the Pakistanis of the US special forces raid which killed the al Qaida leader until its troops were safely out of the country.

David Cameron has spoken by telephone to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zadari and prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in an attempt to soothe tensions. Downing Street said the Prime Minister, who also spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Britain is committed to working "extremely closely" with both countries to counter the terrorist threat from al Qaida and the Taliban.

Mr Cameron, who chaired a 45-minute meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, will update MPs on events in a Commons statement later.

The disclosure that the world's most notorious terrorist leader was tracked to a large mansion complex in a garrison town close to Pakistan's leading defence academy again raised suspicions about the role played by the Pakistani intelligence services. Many Western intelligence experts believe he may have received protection from elements within the ISI intelligence agency - some of whom are suspected of pro-al Qaida sympathies

Speaking at a White House news conference, Mr Brennan said bin Laden must have enjoyed help from within Pakistan to have remained at large for so long, although he stopped short of accusing the Pakistanis of any official involvement.

But President Zardari has denied that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism and claimed that his country was "perhaps the world's greatest victim of terrorism".

Writing in the Washington Post, the leader denied any notion that authorities had failed to act and said although bin Laden's assassination was not a joint operation, a decade of co-operation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan had led up to his elimination "as a continuing threat to the civilised world".

As well as bin Laden, who was shot in the head, one of his adult sons, two suspected al Qaida couriers and a woman thought to be one of his wives died in the attack on the compound. Mr Brennan said she had apparently been used as a human shield. "She served as a shield," he said. "It was unclear if she was put there, or if she put herself there."

Britain has followed the US in putting its embassies and military bases around the world on heightened alert amid fears of reprisals by al Qaida and its affiliates. Foreign Secretary William Hague said al Qaida would want to show it is still "in business", while CIA director Leon Panetta said the terrorists would "almost certainly" try to avenge their leader.

Press Association

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