WASHINGTON – The Pakistani intelligence services provided the United States with information that was helpful in learning more about the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed, a US official said Saturday.
“The Pakistanis didn’t provide any tips on bin Laden, but they provided certain information that aided the United States in developing the American intelligence picture on the compound,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
“This was an American operation,” the official added.
The official’s comment came in response to a Washington Post report Saturday that said Pakistan’s intelligence service believes it deserves credit for helping US intelligence agencies to locate bin Laden’s hideout.
“The lead and the information actually came from us,” an unnamed senior official with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) told The Post.
The al-Qaeda founder and 9/11 mastermind was killed on May 2 last year in a secret US Navy SEAL operation in a walled-off compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, north of the Pakistani capital.
Washington and Islamabad are now working to repair their relationship, which was badly damaged by the revelation that the world’s most wanted man was living a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s elite military academy.
“Any hit on al-Qaeda anywhere in the world has happened with our help,” The Post quotes one of the Pakistani intelligence officials as saying.
The other official, who said he had been intimately involved in the hunt for senior al-Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, said the ISI provided the CIA with a cellphone number that eventually led to an al-Qaeda courier using the nom de guerre of Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the paper said.
The officials said that in November 2010, they turned over the number to the CIA, along with information that it had last been detected in Abbottabad, the report said.
The ISI said it did not know then that the number was Kuwaiti’s, but that CIA analysts did, without however relaying that information back to the Pakistanis, The Post reported.
“They knew who the number belonged to,” the paper quoted one official as saying. “But after that their cooperation with us ended.”
“It is the story of an extreme trust deficit and betrayal,” complained the other ISI official, the paper said.
However a US official disputed the ISI version, The Post said.
“The fact is, our knowledge of the number didn’t come from them telling us about it,” the paper quoted the US official as saying.