London, May 15: Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden received visits from Taliban leaders and wealthy Arab supporters while he was hiding out in a fortified compound in a Pakistani garrison town, it has emerged.
The disclosure came as reports also emerged that bin Laden received visits from Taliban leaders and wealthy Arab supporters while he was hiding out in a fortified compound in a Pakistani garrison town.
The al-Qaeda chief had direct contact with his followers and did not only communicate via messages relayed by courier, according to an Afghan Taliban commander, who said he had met him at the compound in Abbottabad.
The Afghan fighter, who has provided reliable information in the past, told The Daily Beast website that the Saudi terror chieftan received sporadic visits from leaders of his al-Qaeda network, Taliban allies and Arab fundraisers.
This will be crucial for Western intelligence chiefs as they try and assess bin Laden's role in international terror operations.
They had initially believed that his contact with the outside world was conducted via messages on memory sticks.
When the commander, who asked not to be named, last saw bin Laden in Abbottabad two years ago, he seemed healthy and well briefed on recent developments, but concerned about his safety and money.
Bin Laden confided that he had to continue to meet top aides because so many senior lieutenants had been captured or killed.
"He said he had no choice but to be active and meet people, despite the security risks," the Taliban leader said.
"He was meeting with other top al-Qaeda leaders who could get access to Abbottabad without endangering their safety."
The report will once again focus attention on how bin Laden managed to live apparently undetected by the Pakistani authorities for several years in a garrison town, less than a mile from the country's top military academy.
As US and European domestic security officials step up counter-terror operations, Pakistan's intelligence services have withdrawn co-operation with their American counterparts.
Agents with the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate are refusing to share details of suspects or plots in protest at the US operation to kill bin Laden, raising the potential threat of attacks on Western cities.
The country's parliament on Friday condemned the raid, calling for a review of ties with America and warning that Pakistan could cut supply lines to US forces in Afghanistan if there were more such attacks.