Tuesday 24 October 2017

Terror chief's lair will be razed to the ground over shrine fears

Local residents try to look past the gates into the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed
Local residents try to look past the gates into the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed

Dean Nelson in Abbottabad

It was six years ago that Qazi Mahfooz Ul Haq, an Abbottabad doctor, was approached by a man calling himself Mohammad Arshad who wanted to buy a plot of land for his uncle.

The potential buyer appeared unremarkable. "He was a very simple, modest, humble type of man," the doctor said yesterday, sturdily built with a tuft of hair under his lower lip.

His only distinctive feature was an accent that sounded like it was from Waziristan, the tribal region close to Afghanistan, hardly an impediment to the £43,000 (€47,835) deal.

In the intervening years, Dr Ul Haq ran into his buyer infrequently.

Now he knows why. For the man was Osama bin Laden's most trusted courier and the uncle who came to live in the compound he built there was the world's most wanted man.

The house now faces demolition by Pakistani authorities to prevent it becoming a jihadist shrine.

It has also emerged that the large home was approved by Abbottabad's army chief but built in blatant breach of planning rules, increasing suspicions of collusion in sheltering the al-Qa'ida chief.

Despite army rules that no building in the cantonment should be higher than two storeys, and security walls no more than 10ft, bin Laden's last hiding place had three floors and a security wall of more than 15ft. Aftab Jamal Bangash, vice-president of the Cantonment Board which approves all construction, said it had been passed by a senior brigadier and two other members.

One local official said that the land had been bought by Arshad Khan, son of Naqab Khan of Charsadda in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2005.

The man was identified in property records as Mohammad Arshad -- thought to be a version of Arshad Khan, which in turn is thought to be a false name for Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, one of bin Laden's key aides.

Khan bought two other plots in a less transparent transaction in November 2004. They were incorporated in the compound.

Ashgar Khan, a former Pakistan air marshal who lives a mile from the compound, said breaches of planning rules or unusual arrivals could not go unnoticed by local police informers and officers who would have passed them up to the government.

"Someone must have known. The army would have known that this is an odd building. It's clear that any building with security walls 15ft high is suspicious," he said. He supported earlier comments by Lt-Gen Talat Massood who said he believed elements of Pakistan's security services had been "complicit" in protecting the compound.

One adviser on terrorism to the US state department said he suspected that it was used as a safe house by elements in Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. (© Daily Telegraph, Lon-don)

Irish Independent

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