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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden and the fatal phone call

Osama bin Laden was caught because of a 60-second phone call. His most trusted courier, Sheikh Abu Ahmed broke the golden rule - never talk to another al-Qaeda operative on a mobile. He and other senior figures were ordered to only speak to each other face to face. Little did he know that the associate he called was being bugged by the CIA.

Kuwaiti-born Ahmed had been with bin Laden since 2001 when he vanished from the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan. He helped plan the 9/11 terror attacks and because he was an IT specialist, gave the hijackers instructions on how to use computers. He also delivered the tape recordings made by his leader to TV stations. Since July last year, the compound has been watched by drones, satellites and agents. CIA suspected a “high-value target” was living there but didn’t have any proof until a photo was taken of bin Laden inside the compound last month. Ahmed and his brother are now dead, both killed in the raid.

The White House now says that bin Laden was not armed when he was killed but he did resist. His wife was with him in the room and rushed at the soldiers and was shot in the leg but is still alive.

Children playing near the compound knew there was something odd going on behind the high walls but didn’t know what. When their soccer ball sailed over the wall into the property, they were not allowed to retrieve it. “They were given money instead, about $2 or $3 per ball” the ice cream vendor said. A sixteen year old boy who often played soccer and cricket near the compound said he saw a Suzuki van drive into the compound every day with a live goat. Another neighbour occasionally saw two or three wives and their children outside and because the women always wore black burqas, they were conspicuous in the moderate Islamic city made up of retired businessmen and army officers.

With world attention now focused on Pakistan, they must explain why they didn't know that Osama bin Laden was living among them in a town full of policemen and army personnel. Abbottabad is a garrison town with several air bases and Pakistan's most prestigious military academy. In their defence, they arrested Umar Patek, an al-Qaida terrorist linked to the Bali bombings in the same town on 25th January this year so why didn't Obama make a run for it then? So many unanswered questions.