Washington, May 4: In indications that Osama bin Laden was prepared to flee at short notice, cash totalling 500 Euros and two telephone numbers were found sewn into his clothing when he was killed by US commandos deep inside Pakistan on Sunday.
US media reported tonight that this information was given by top intelligence officials to members of the Congress at a classfied briefing at which CIA Director Leon Panetta was present.
Another US media report said the American troops that swooped on bin Laden's compound at Abbottabad may have laid their hands on the “largest potential intelligence coup of the post-9/11 era.”
The Navy SEALS, which conducted the 40-minute operation, carried off five computers, 10 hard drives and more than 100 storage devices and removable flash drives, the Wall Street Journal said quoting US officials.
A Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) task force, which has already conducted a preliminary analysis of the material, is hunting for leads on the location of the slain al-Qaeda leader's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is widely expected to ascend to the top of the outfit.
US publication ‘POLITCO” quoting sources who attended Panetta's breifing reported that the CIA chief told lawmakers about the items found in bin Laden's clothing in response to a question about why he wasn't guarded by more security personnel at his home in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
The anwser, according to one source, bin Laden believed “his network was strong enough he'd get a heads-up” before any US strike.
The evidence of cash, which amounts to 740 USD and phone numbers was divulged to support the US Administration's belief that bin Laden was prepared to escape the compound if alerted to an impending attack, the publication quoted a source.
Panetta said yesterday that Pakistani officials were kept deliberately out of the loop by the US in its operation to get bin Laden as it feared they might “alert” the targets and “jeopardise” the mission.
The US Administration's belief on bin Laden's escape plans may also be buttressed by White House's revelation that the 9/11 mastermind was not armed when he was killed in the raid by the Navy SEAL team.
Senator Tom carper, was quoted by WSJ as having said, “The real benefit to our security from the raid by the Navy SEALS is we've recovered a treasure trove of intelligence that can be used to go after bad guYs all over the world.” Carper, a Delaware Democrat, is a member of the Senate's homeland-security committee.
US officials said they believed al Zawahiri is somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Some intelligence suggests he is hiding in the Pakistani regions of North or South Wazirstan, along the Afghanistan border—the tribal region suspected or sheltering bin Laden until investigations led the US to Abbottabad.
The officials said that one of the most important leads would be information leading to Zawahiri, who they believe might be on the move as a result of the raid.
The WSJ quoting officials briefed on the matter said US intelligence agencies believed Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda leaders may speed up terror plans in the pipeline to prove al-Qaeda's vitality.
Giving a peep into the early assessment from US officials about the bin Laden operation, it said the strike team went into his compound armed with the detailed Sensitive-Site Exploitation plan, which spells out for team membes under fire and with limited time which items need to be extracted from a hostile location and how.
The plan was rehearsed by team members in advance of the raid, officials said.
They said the SEAL team was supposed to be inside the compound for no more than 30 minutes, but encounteredd heavy resistance and had to destroy their disable Black Hawk helicopter and therefore the operation lasted about eight minutes longer than planned.
Officials said bin Laden wasn't found destroying equipment or documents as the strike team closed in. It is unclear if others made an effort to destroy data.
“It appears they were nore interested in fighting their way out than destroying anything, one official said. PTI