Islamabad, May 7: Trying to piece together Osama bin Laden's life prior to the US raid that killed him, Pakistani sleuths today focussed on Haripur district in the country's northwest after his Yemeni widow said the al-Qaeda chief lived there before moving to Abbottabad near Islamabad.
Security and intelligence operatives fanned out in Chak Shah Mohammad Khan, a village in Haripur district, after learning from bin Laden's widow that he had lived there for nearly two-and-half years, TV news channels reported.
Pakistani investigators tracing bin Laden's movements since his escape from Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains have discovered that he had been living in Pakistan's urban centres longer than they had thought, media reports said. Bin Laden had apparently spent seven-and-half years in the Haripur and Abbottabad regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
Amal Ahmed Abdul Fattah, bin Laden's 29-year-old Yemeni widow, has revealed that the al-Qaeda leader lived with his family in Chak Shah Mohammad Khan, a village in the Haripur district for nearly two-and-half years before moving with his children and grandchildren to the compound in Bilal Town towards the end of 2005, the Dawn newspaper quoted unnamed officials familiar with the investigation as saying.
Chak Shah Mohammad Khan is located 34 km from the garrison town of Abbottabad and two kilometres southeast of Haripur town.
Amal's revelation meant that bin Laden left Pakistan's tribal region sometime in 2003 to live in a settled area, the officials told the Dawn.
She also told investigators that contrary to a widely held belief that the 54-year-old al-Qaeda leader required dialysis to treat a chronic kidney ailment, bin Laden was hale and hearty.
Since bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora in 2001, both Pakistani and American officials believed he was hiding in the tribal belt along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
“Imagine, this guy was living in our midst in Haripur and Abbottabad for seven-and-a half years and we all, both Pakistanis and Americans, had been looking for him in the wrong direction,” one official remarked. Several al-Qaeda elements had chosen to live in the relatively secure environs of Haripur and Abbottabad, away from the prying eyes of intelligence agencies, the report said.
In May 2009, police arrested Abdullah al Masri from Malikyar village. Three days later, militants attacked police guarding the house occupied by al Masri's two wives and killed three policemen.
One of the assailants, a Pakistani identified as a resident of Malikpura in Abbottabad, was killed in the attack. Indonesian al-Qaeda operative Umar Patek, a suspect in the Bali bombings of 2002, was arrested from Malikpura, Abbottabad, in January this year.
Indonesian authorities have said Patek, arrested by Pakistani intelligence, came to Abbottabad to meet bin Laden. According to Pakistani officials, Amal spent the last night with bin Laden and gave an account of what had transpired.
She told investigators that she had just moved with her husband to their bedroom and switched off the lights when they heard gunshots.
Before bin Laden could reach his Kalashnikov, the US Navy SEAL team burst in and shot at her husband. She confirmed that he was unarmed.
Amal was hit by a bullet in her leg and wounded while trying to resist the intruding Americans, she said. The land for the compound in which bin Laden was killed was bought by Mohammad Arshad, believed to be an alias for Al-Qaeda courier Arshad Khan, on January 22, 2004 by using a forged national identity card and a wrong address.
Situated in the middle of agriculture land, the compound was built in 2005, soon after the devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan's northern regions. Arshad and his brother Tariq Khan, natives of Shangla district adjoining Swat, were among bin Laden's trusted lieutenants.
They lived and accompanied him and fronted for him. They would also run errands for him, Amal told investigators.Little is known about the Kuwaiti-born brothers other than their father, who too lived and worked in Kuwait, had known bin Laden.
Their relationship and trust in each other had a history of 30 to 40 years, an official told the Dawn. Incidentally, bin Laden's son, who was killed with his father, was married to one of the sisters of the Khan brothers.
Their children lived alongside the children and grandchildren of bin Laden.
Amongst those left behind by the US special forces team were bin Laden's three wives, two of them highly educated Saudis, his elder son and four children of a daughter who was killed in a drone strike in Waziristan, the officials said.
They also included bin Laden's Abbottabad-born five-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter. Investigators were also attempting to find out who helped bin Laden's movement from the tribal belt to the cities of Pakistan.
A cleric picked up by security forces from one of the tribal regions had initially pointed the finger towards Abbottabad, thus causing Pakistani and US intelligence operatives to focus more closely on the garrison city. Bin Laden's Yemeni wife told investigators that he had undergone two kidney surgeries in Afghanistan's south-western Kandahar province during the Taliban regime and had recovered thereafter, using homemade medications including watermelons.
“He was neither weak nor frail,” one of the officials quoted Amal as saying, debunking a widely held belief that Osama needed dialysis. “He believed in his own medication,” his wife told investigators.
A senior security official said information gleaned from the widow had not been shared with Americans so far. Meanwhile, the compound in Bilal Town, a suburb of Abbottabad, where bin Laden was killed in a pre-dawn raid by US special forces on Monday remained sealed. Security forces deployed in the area did not allow the media and the public to approach it.
TV crews were not allowed to film in the area and reporters were barred from interacting with local residents.
International media crews were asked to leave Abbottabad. PTI