World 'failed to track' Bin Laden

How the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden was carried out.

The high-risk mission to hunt down Washington's most wanted man, Osama Bin Laden, was given the green light by President Barack Obama in what his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan termed "one of the gutsiest calls by any president in recent memory". The operation, which took place at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan, involved a team of some 20-25 highly-trained US Navy Seals.

Tension in the White House situation room

President Barack Obama followed the raid on Bin Laden's compound from the White House situation room - a secure space used to monitor and manage crises. For 40 minutes, the president and his senior aides were kept updated of the progress of the operation. "The minutes passed like days," said White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan. On hearing of Bin Laden's death, Mr Obama declared: "We got him."

1. Joe Biden

Vice president of the United States

2. Barack Obama

President of the United States

3. Brigadier General
Marshall B "Brad" Webb

Joint special operations command

4. Denis McDonough

Deputy national security adviser

5. Hillary Clinton

Secretary of state

6. Robert Gates

Secretary of defense

7. Admiral Mike Mullen

Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff

8. Tom Donilon

National security adviser

9. Bill Daley

Chief of staff

10. Tony Blinken

National security adviser to the vice president

11. Audrey Tomason

Director for counter-terrorism

12. John Brennan

Assistant to the president for
homeland security and counter-terrorism

13. James Clapper

Director of national intelligence


Error! Filename not specified.

Footage from inside Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound tells of the bloody fire fight that left the al-Qaeda leader dead.

Helicopter crash

One of the helicopters used in the operation failed and was destroyed by the special forces before they left.

Bin Laden's body buried

Bin Laden's body was flown by helicopter to the US aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, and was buried at sea.

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Death of Bin Laden


Reports of the operation to find al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden paint a picture of high tension, with White House officials watching the operation unfold on a live video feed.

At the climax, at the end of a 40-minute firefight, one of the soldiers uttered the words: "Geronimo EKIA" - meaning a man visually identified by a code word for Bin Laden had been killed in action, officials said.

A high-risk operation given the green light by President Barack Obama in what his counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, termed "one of the gutsiest calls by any president in recent memory" had achieved its aim, the death of Washington's most wanted man.

Both US and Pakistani officials assert Pakistan was kept completely in the dark about the operation and reports suggest the tension lingered as the team led by US Navy Seals made a high-speed dash to Afghanistan at the end of it.

A suspicious Pakistani air force started scrambling jets, Mr Brennan said, leading to last-minute worries the US team could still be in danger.


The operation took place at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.



The BBC's Orla Guerin looks around the perimeter of Bin Laden's compound

It happened at some time between 0000 and 0130 local time on Monday morning (1900-2030 GMT on Sunday), dozens of local residents told a BBC reporter. The two US helicopters were seen flying low over the area, causing panic among some residents.

Residents describe hearing three explosions several minutes apart, followed by a huge explosion that shook their houses and knocked crockery from shelves. Most residents said they then also heard gunshots, but that the firing was brief, just a couple of minutes or so.

As the explosions started, they say, the lights in the area went off, going on and off again shortly afterwards. One report quotes some residents as saying they were commanded in Pashto - not the common language of the area - to turn their lights off, but this is unconfirmed.

It is believed that people inside the house fired at the helicopters, but eventually they were able to land or hover outside the compound, and the US commandos emerged from them.

US officials said that at some point in the operation one of the two helicopters developed a technical fault - witnesses said it might have been hit by gunfire from the ground. Rather than let it fall into the wrong hands, the commandos blew it up.

One report of the operation emerged in real-time: Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant living in Abbottabad, posted on Twitter at about 0100 (2100 GMT) that a helicopter was hovering above the city.



President Obama and his security team watched the operation in real time from the White House

He continued tweeting as the operation unfolded before eventually realising: "Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it."

There are contradictory reports about which base the helicopters took off from, with some saying the US air bases at Jalalabad or Bagram in Afghanistan, but others suggesting it was the nearby Ghazi air base inside Pakistan.

Security concerns

The target of the operation was the compound, which had at its centre a large three-storey building with 12ft high concrete high walls, barbed wire and CCTV cameras - and few windows.

The compound - valued at about $1m (£600,000) - had two security gates but no phone or internet lines running into the building.

Its occupants were so concerned about security that they were reported to burn their rubbish rather than leave it out for collection as other residents in the area did.

Mr Brennan told reporters that the commando team had been "able and prepared" to take Bin Laden alive "if he didn't present any threat".

"The concern was that Bin Laden would oppose any type of capture operation. Indeed, he did. It was a firefight. He, therefore, was killed in that firefight, and that's when the remains were removed," said Mr Brennan.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday Bin Laden was unarmed when he was killed, but that he did resist capture.

The al-Qaeda leader was in his bedroom when he was shot twice, officials said - once in the head and once in the chest.

Footage purporting to be of the bedroom appears to show a round gaping hole in the wall, suggesting US forces blasted their way into the building.

US officials described the operation as a "surgical raid" and said that as well as Bin Laden, three adult males - thought to comprise Bin Laden's trusted courier, his brother and Bin Laden's adult son, Khaled - were killed.

A woman was also killed in crossfire on the first floor of the building. There were conflicting reports as to whether the woman who died was being used as a human shield.

One of Bin Laden's wives - believed to be his fourth wife, Amal al-Ahmed Sadah from Yemen - was shot in the leg when she "rushed" one of the US commandos when he entered the room the al-Qaeda leader was in, Mr Carney said.




White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: Bin Laden not armed, but did resist

A senior intelligence official told reporters at a US Department of Defense briefing that Bin Laden's body was identified visually on the scene by operatives, by name by a woman at the scene believed to be his wife, by CIA specialists using photos and finally later on Monday by experts who found "virtually a 100% DNA match of the body against DNA of several Bin Laden family members".

The team left the compound carrying documents, hard drives and DVDs which it is hoped could yield further valuable intelligence data, officials said.

According to an official from Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, there were 17 or 18 people in the compound at the time of the attack, while US officials say those who survived the attack included one of Bin Laden's wives and a daughter, and eight to nine other children who were not apparently Bin Laden's.

The ISI and US officials contradict each other as to whether a detainee was taken away alive.

Bin Laden's body was flown to Afghanistan and later to the US aircraft carrier, the Carl Vinson, in the north Arabian Sea.

Mr Carney said the body was prepared for burial "in conformance with Islamic precepts and practice", then placed in a weighted bag and dropped into the water from the vessel's deck. Officials said this was to avoid his grave becoming a shrine.

'Trusted' courier

The compound is in a residential district of Abbottabad's suburbs called Bilal Town, which is home to a number of retired military officers from the area.

The compound is just 1km from the Pakistan Military Academy, an elite military training centre which is being described as Pakistan's equivalent to Britain's Sandhurst or the West Point academy in the US.

Pakistan's army chief is a regular visitor to the academy, where he attends graduation parades, and it is likely the area would have had a constant and significant military presence and checkpoints.


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As details of the raid emerged it became clear that the operation had been long in the planning. US officials said they had received intelligence that Bin Laden might be in that compound as long ago as last summer.

CIA experts found significant circumstantial evidence that the "high value target" living at the compound was Bin Laden, but US satellites were not able to photograph Bin Laden or any members of his family. In the end, they were only 60-80% confident that the al-Qaeda leader was there.

US intelligence agents focussed in particular on one of Bin Laden's couriers - a man identified as a protege of captured al-Qaeda commander Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The Kuwait-born courier's nom de guerre - Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti - was reportedly given to US interrogators by detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, US media reported. It took years of work to identify his true name, Sheikh Abu Ahmed.

He appeared to be one of the few couriers completely trusted by Bin Laden, who helped keep the al-Qaeda figurehead in touch with the rest of the world.

In July, Pakistani agents working for the CIA spotted him driving a vehicle near the northern city of Peshawar. After weeks of surveillance, in August he led them to the sprawling compound in Abbottabad.

The order to carry out the mission was finally given by President Obama last Friday, after he had held five National Security Council meetings in March and April





Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan: "The minutes passed like days"

The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said during one meeting: "We have the best evidence since [the 2001 battle of] Tora Bora, and that then makes it clear that we have an obligation to act."

Mr Panetta said Mr Obama ruled out a high-altitude bombing raid by a B-2 bombers, or cruise-missile strike because of the possibility of too much collateral damage. There was also a concern that such options might obliterate evidence of Bin Laden's death , as well as cause big diplomatic fallout if he was found not to be in the compound.

Instead, a helicopter assault emerged as the favoured option and the Navy Seals began rehearsing at training facilities on both US coasts, where replicas of the compound were built. They were not told who their target might be until later.

Mr Panetta said the Pakistani government was also not informed of the operation in advance because the CIA feared that word of it might have been leaked.

"It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets," he told Time magazine.

CIA officials turned a windowless seventh-floor conference room at Langley into a command centre for the operation, from where Mr Panetta passed on details to the president and his advisers in the White House.

"We have a visual on Geronimo," Mr Panetta said after troops entered the compound, according to the New York Times.

Minutes later, he told them: "Geronimo EKIA [Enemy Killed In Action]."

President Obama added: "We got him."



Bin Laden: The team that killed him



The BBC's Steve Kingstone reports on the US Navy Seals

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Death of Bin Laden

The men assigned to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden were part of the US Navy's legendary special forces unit, the Seals. Who are they?

It was years in the planning but took just 40 minutes to execute.

More than a dozen members of the US military were dropped near the high-walled, three-storey compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.

After a brief firefight, five people were killed, including Osama Bin Laden, who reportedly received a shot above his left eye.

All the US forces escaped unharmed, despite technical problems with one helicopter that they had to leave behind.

It says everything about their presence of mind that despite the dangers, they collected hard drives, DVDs and documents from the building before they left.

From the US point of view, the mission, codenamed Geronimo, could hardly have gone any better, a reflection on the preparation and skills of the men who carried it out.

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Steve Kingstone BBC News, Virginia Beach

"Discreet pride" is the best way to sum up the mood. Local people are delighted that the men who faced down Bin Laden were from the Seal base at Virginia Beach, but they also understand that absolute secrecy is the foundation of Seal achievements.

The town's mayor is politely declining interviews - having earlier floated the idea of a public tribute to the special forces. And at the base which is understood to house Team Six, the Military Police were courteous but tight-lipped.

At CP Shuckers, a bustling late-night bar, I heard a surprisingly nuanced range of views on Bin Laden's death. Everyone welcomed the killing, and many were proud of the local connection. But there was no consensus as to whether the terror threat to America would now ease.

Separately, I spoke to a serving Seal, who did not want to be identified. He was mildly sceptical about the US government's account of the raid. "I'll only form a true view on this," he said, "when I hear about it directly - from the guys who were there."

Although there has been no official confirmation which team was involved, it is widely thought that it was the Seal Team Six (ST6), officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but more commonly known as DevGru.

They are the all-star, elite group of Seals, a team of military personnel trained to carry out top secret operations.

The Seals are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are also the maritime component of the US Special Operations Command, continually deployed throughout the world in operations to protect US interests.

There are 2,500 Seals in total, and they take their name from the environments in which they are trained to work - sea, air and land. But it is their highly specialised training to operate in water that they are best known for.

Their missions can be enormously varied in nature, involving combat, anti-terrorism and hostage rescues.

These guys are America's thoroughbreds, says Don Shipley, from Virginia, who spent two decades in the Navy as a Seal.

"They're the finest guys America has. Your average guy walking down the street just doesn't have it.

"The guys that become Seals have gifted eyesight, above average intelligence, and are genetically built to withstand a lot of punishment, being pounded a lot. Those are the guys that are qualified to get in but the guys that ultimately come out are thoroughbreds, they're racehorses."

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“Start Quote

Stew Smith

I never thought about dropping out”

End Quote Stew Smith, former Seal on the gruelling training

It is often described as the toughest training available to any special forces anywhere in the world. The drop-out rate is 80-85%.

Stew Smith, a Seal for eight years, now runs fitness training courses in Maryland for people who are thinking of joining up.

He says the first six months of Seal training, known as Basic Underwater Demolition (Buds) is the toughest. It includes one period which lasts a continuous 120 hours, and involves swimming, running, obstacle courses, scuba diving and navigation.

The current Buds training course has already lost 190 recruits out of 245, and is only three weeks in, he says.

"I never thought about dropping out. People ask me why not, and I say that you have to go there in a mindset of competing, not just surviving.

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Seal Team Six (ST6)

"If you're running your first marathon, your goal is just to finish the thing, you're in a survival mode. But when you're stretching out before, you look across and see a Kenyan who is trying to drop a minute off his best time.

"There is a different mindset. For me, every day in training was a competition."

After Buds, you are officially a Seal and assigned to a team but you need to have another 12 months of training with your new colleagues before you are deployed, says Mr Smith.

He believes what makes Seals special is their versatility.

"Also, having a strong confidence with the boat, and a relationship with the Navy, we have a way of respecting Mother Nature because we realise that when you're out there in the middle of the ocean, you're just a speck."

This familiarity with the vagaries of the weather teaches Seals to always have a Plan B, he says. "There's a saying in the Seals that two is one and one is nothing."


Navy Seal

Seal training is gruelling, and many recruits drop out

The origins of the Seals can be traced to World War II, and its predecessors like the Naval Combat Demolition Unit, which was involved in the invasion of North Africa in 1942.

Their formation came out of a $100m (£61m) package by President John F Kennedy to strengthen the US special forces capability.

They were later involved in Vietnam, Grenada and in Panama, where four Seals were killed as they tried to prevent leader Manuel Noriega escaping by destroying his jet and boat.

The episode was also renowned for an incident a few days later, in which loud rock music was played all day and night to force him out of his refuge in Panama City.

In more recent years, the Seals have been heavily involved in missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But their role in the death of Osama Bin Laden writes another chapter in their history.




World 'failed to track' Bin Laden


The BBC's Orla Guerin looks around the perimeter of Bin Laden's compound

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Death of Bin Laden

A secretive household where women were never seen, run by two tall and aloof brothers who showed rare and unexpected moments of kindness to local children, is part of a picture that is slowly building up about life in the Bin Laden compound.

As media access to the site has widened, more neighbours have divulged details about their interactions with the mysterious inhabitants of the fortified "mansion" in their midst.

Although the walled compound edged with barbed wire was set back in relative isolation, it was surrounded by three neighbourhoods: Thanda Choha, Bilal Town and Hashmi Colony. The residents of these areas provide sometimes contradictory accounts of their now infamous neighbours.

But one notable absence from all accounts is any mention of a tall, bearded foreigner resident in the compound.

People appear to have had absolutely no inkling that Osama Bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, was living just yards from them.

Mysterious brothers

The inhabitants of the compound certainly lived an isolated existence and had very little contact with their neighbours, residents in the area told the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Abbottabad.

The two brothers have been identified in numerous media reports as Arshad and Tariq Khan - although Associated Press reporter Nahal Toosi points out that there are conflicting local reports about their identity.

Some reports, such as the Guardian account, identifies one of them as the Bin Laden courier who the CIA was tracking, but BBC Urdu analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai says this information cannot be verified.

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Other neighbours in the Hashmi Colony area told BBC Urdu's Aijaz Mahar that the brothers posed as landlords from the fertile Charsadda area of north-western Pakistan who had moved to Abbottabad because of its pleasant climate.

One thing is clear: their desire for privacy was so marked that most people left them well alone. They did not mix with others and were rarely if ever seen at local wedding celebrations or other community occasions.

A reporter from Pakistan's Express TV even reported that one neighbour said that when local children hit a cricket ball into the compound, they were not allowed to retrieve it.

Rumours circulated about the men. Local driver Qazi Faisal told BBC Urdu's Aijaz Mahar that people thought these brothers were smugglers. Another witness told him that after the raid he could see soldiers removing what he thought were weapons, gold and cash from the house.

"They just said 'hello' and 'good evening.' If I said Salaam Alaikum, [traditional Muslim greeting meaning peace to you], they would reply properly," their closest neighbour, 20-year-old Qasim, told BBC Urdu's Nukhbat Malik.

He said they were always courteous but all seven members of his family agreed that they never once initiated conversation. Although reports concur that they behaved appropriately and were polite, they also exuded a sense of menace, other neighbours say.

"He used to come and buy household things... I never felt like asking him anything," shopkeeper Faisal told BBC Urdu about Arshad Khan.

"They absolutely did not interact. We saw them roaming around but they were not approachable," he said.


Rabbits as gifts

US officials said their long-term observation of the compound revealed that the inhabitants burned their rubbish inside the walls, rather than leaving it outside to be collected. They also revealed that there were no phone or internet lines into the house.

Every now and then what looked like bullet-proof vehicles would go in and out of the compound, but security gates would slide shut immediately afterwards, locals told the BBC.


Part of the compound - half burnt out - after the raid

Media were not allowed inside the compound but parts of it were visible to observers

But there was also testimony describing moments of unexpected generosity.

One boy, 12-year-old Zarar Ahmed, told the BBC he used to visit the compound a lot, saying the family had three children - a girl and two boys.

"They gave us two rabbits. They had cameras outside, so that they could watch who was coming," he said.

He also said that the owner had two wives - one who spoke Urdu and one who spoke Arabic. Staff at the hospital where the injured were taken also told local journalists that the wounded from the compound spoke Pashto and Arabic.

A different account comes from al-Arabiya, which quotes Qari Mastana Khan of Bilal Town who says of the compound's inhabitants: "They were kind-hearted and would provide clean drinking water and food to poor neighbours. During the holy month of Ramadan, they invited us for Iftar dinner at their house and served us delicious food."

It is not clear if the children attended school. Some neighbours told the BBC they thought they were schooled at home. The women in the home were never seen: most people assumed that this is because they were Pashtun, and they tend to observe strict purdah.


Goat delivery

A newspaper hawker told the BBC that he had delivered newspapers to the compound every day, and at the end of each month his bill was promptly paid, always by the same man.

Footage from inside Bin Laden's compound

He never stepped inside the compound but said he had seen a red pick-up vehicle, with a goat inside, being driven inside.

Shopkeeper Mohammed Rashid told BBC Urdu's Aijaz Mahar that two goats were delivered every week, presumably for slaughter and consumption. He also said that 10 litres of milk a day was left for the compound, adding that there were lots of children there.

"They used to come to the shops and buy sweets and toffees, but not the female children. We have never seen the women from the house."

The residents of the compound clearly employed a number of domestic helpers. Abbottabad hospital staff have told the BBC Urdu service that among those being treated in the wake of the raid are two women believed to be maids employed by the family.

After the compound was opened up to the media on Tuesday, Associated Press correspondent Nahal Toosi was tweeting her observations.

"I am in a bldg across from cpd. Looks like servants quarters. Piles of clothes, pillows on floor. Broken clock on ground. Stopped at 2:20," she reported. She also notes a mouldy lentil stew in a pot, half-eaten bread and an old television set.

Other observations abound:


Compound images from 2004,5 and 2101


'Waziristan mansion'

The spacious and prosperous homes in these areas are known as "havelis" and, according to local journalists speaking to the BBC, the Bin Laden home was known as "Waziristan Haveli" or "mansion" - named after the semi-autonomous tribal area where many until now assumed Bin Laden was sheltering.

Satellite images between 2005 and 2011 reflect the change in the area and also show how the compound itself has expanded as more outbuildings, walls and privacy features have been built.

Notices on Pakistani property websites advise that land in the Hashmi Colony area, very close to the Bin Laden compound, is available. The area is seen as secure and stable.

Just a few hundred metres north is Pakistan's prestigious Kakul Military Academy. And property is available here too. According to the seller, "it's a very secuir [sic] place near army farm house army jeeps takes 100 rounds in a day so very safe place to live".

There are few images of the interior. US officials released one picture of a bedroom on the second floor, showing a double bed strewn with pillows and cushions. The floors are blood-stained: this is said to be the room in which Bin Laden was killed.



Pakistan's shadowy secret service, the ISI

Anti-Soviet resistance fighters in 1980

The ISI played a key role in funding the Afghan mujahideen

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Taliban Conflict

Pakistan's directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, is once again facing accusations of double-standards over its role in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Many observers find it hard to believe the organisation had no idea that Osama Bin Laden had been living under the nose of the Pakistani military until his death.

As to the US special forces raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader, questions abound about what the ISI knew and when it knew it.

Similar Western doubts over the ISI's loyalties have been a recurring theme in recent years.

In documents leaked in April 2011 on the Wikileaks website, US authorities described the ISI as a "terrorist" organisation on a par with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the same month the US military's top officer, Adm Mike Mullen, also accused the ISI of having links with the Taliban.

He said it had a "long-standing relationship" with a militant group run by Afghan insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani, which targets US troops in Afghanistan.

The list does not end there.

In June 2010 the ISI was accused of giving funding, training and sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban on a scale much larger than previously thought.

The paper published by the London School of Economics said that Taliban field commanders suggested that ISI intelligence agents even attend Taliban supreme council meetings - and that support for the militants was "official ISI policy".

Much of the high level of concern among some Western countries over the role of the ISI was expressed by British PM David Cameron in 2010.


Pakistani newspaper

The ISI has admitted lapses in the lead-up to Bin Laden's death

He accused the country of "looking both ways" when it came to fighting terrorism and suggested that elements in Pakistan were guilty of promoting the "export of terror".

The Pakistani government has consistently rejected all the allegations against the ISI as "negative propaganda" by the US and its allies.

It has also dismissed suggestions that the ISI is run as "a state within a state", subverts elected governments and is involved in drug smuggling.


Turbulent politics

The truth will no doubt always be murky - because like many other military intelligence organisations, the shadowy ISI zealously guards its secrets and evidence against it is sketchy.

What is not in doubt however is that the agency is a central organ of Pakistan's military machine and has played a major - often dominant - role in the country's volatile politics.

The ISI was established in 1948 - as Pakistan engaged India in the first war over Kashmir - to be the top body co-ordinating the intelligence functions of its army, air force and navy.

In the 1950s, when Pakistan joined anti-communist alliances, its military services and the ISI received considerable Western support in training and equipment.

The ISI's attention was focused on India, considered Pakistan's arch-enemy.

But when Ayub Khan, the army commander-in-chief, mounted the first successful coup in 1958, the ISI's domestic political activities expanded.

As a new state bringing together diverse ethnic groups within what some described as contrived borders, Pakistan faced separatist challenges - among Pashtuns, Balochis, Sindhis and Bengalis.

Much of the country's early history was shaped by politicians seeking regional autonomy and the central civilian and military bureaucracies trying to consolidate national unity.

The ISI not only mounted surveillance on parties and politicians, it often infiltrated, co-opted, cajoled or coerced them into supporting the army's centralising agenda.


Defeat and disgrace

The army ran the country from 1958 to 1971, when East Pakistan broke away with Indian and Soviet help to become Bangladesh.


Gen Zia ul-Haq


Gen Zia ul-Haq was a keen supporter of the ISI

The ISI and the Pakistani military were thoroughly discredited and marginalised after the war.

But they gained fresh purpose in 1972 when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the new civilian leader, launched a clandestine project to build nuclear weapons.


A year later military operations were launched against nationalist militants in Balochistan province.

These two events helped rehabilitate the ISI and the military.

After Bhutto was ousted by Gen Zia ul-Haq in 1977, the Balochistan operations were ended but the nuclear programme was expanded.


In the dark

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 transformed the regional setting.

All foreign assistance to mujahideen rebels at that time arrived via Pakistan, to be handled by the ISI whose Afghan bureau co-ordinated operational activities with the seven guerrilla militias.


Pakistani soldiers

The aims of the Pakistani army and the ISI have not always tallied

This was done in such secrecy that the Pakistani military itself was kept in the dark.

Foreign money helped to establish hundreds of madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan's cities and frontier areas.

These turned out thousands of Taliban (students) who joined the mujahideen in the anti-Soviet campaign.

The ISI managed this operation, handling tens of thousands of tons of ordnance every year and co-ordinating the action of several hundred thousand fighters in great secrecy.

In 1989, the Soviet Union withdrew its forces.

The 10-year-long Afghan war not only bestowed on the ISI huge experience of covert warfare, it also created for it a vast reserve of motivated manpower that could be used as its proxy in the geo-strategic horseplay of regional powers.

Despite denials from Islamabad, correspondents say there is plenty of evidence that in 1988, without directly involving Pakistan in a conflict, the ISI moved Islamic militants from Afghanistan to Indian-administered Kashmir to start an insurgency there.

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan, and especially the ISI, of involvement in Kashmir and in attacks elsewhere in India - including the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks in which gunmen killed 165 people.



World 'failed to track' Bin Laden

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Death of Bin Laden

The killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan has raised a number of questions - and not all of them have clear answers.

How was Bin Laden tracked down?

The hunt for America's most-wanted man was conducted over many years. Bin Laden was found through one of his personal couriers. Following investigations by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies, the courier was identified in 2007.

In mid-2010 he was tracked down to a large compound in Abbottabad, home to Pakistan's leading military academy, north-east of the capital Islamabad.

In February 2011 it was determined that there was "sound intelligence" that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad with several family members.

Why are there different accounts of Bin Laden's death?

The operation was carried out members of the US Navy Seals flown by helicopter from neighbouring Afghanistan, and fighting their way in.

The US has offered two different successive accounts of the killing of Bin Laden. Originally, officials said the al-Qaeda chief had "participated" in a firefight when he was shot dead.

On Tuesday, the White House corrected this, saying Bin Laden was unarmed. But it still insisted that he was resisting capture - although it is unclear exactly how he did so.

The president's spokesman suggested the initial confusion was the result of trying to provide a great deal of information in haste. But the latest account will encourage those who doubt the official version of events.

How much scepticism is there?

Conspiracy theories began to circulate within minutes of the death being announced.

Blogs, forum and web pages - including a Facebook group entitled "Osama Bin Laden not dead" - are rife with suggestions that the US government faked the raid.

Correspondents say that many people in Pakistan doubt that he has been killed. And in a debate run by the BBC's Asian Network on Monday, some British Muslims also expressed scepticism.

"No body?," questioned one contributor. "I don't believe the Americans due to lack of evidence."

Why, given the scepticism, has the US so far not released any pictures of the body?

The US is well aware of the pressure to provide proof of death.

Indeed US media have said that one of the reasons President Obama decided on a commando operation to kill Bin Laden rather than a bombing raid was to have positive identification of the body.

Officials say that DNA tests carried out on the remains showed a "virtually 100%" match with the DNA of Bin Laden's relatives.

Afterwards the body was being buried at sea. US officials said this was to avoid his grave becoming a shrine.

US officials are weighing up the impact of the eventual release of images of Bin Laden's corpse - particularly as they could be gruesome. They might even be inconclusive, as he was supposedly shot in the head.

Was Pakistan involved in the operation?

The US insists it planned and carried out the raid alone, and only notified the Pakistanis after the event.

The reason, one US official told reporters, was that "it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel that only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of the operation".

But some commentators find it hard to believe that US aircraft could have penetrated deep into Pakistan, apparently evading air defences, without the army's knowledge.

Did the Pakistani army know Bin Laden was living in their midst?

Officially, they had no idea. Yet the compound, completed in 2005, was hardly inconspicuous. It is much larger than other homes in the area, surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire.

Many analysts are asking how a huge mansion with heavy security could have been built in a major garrison town, and occupied by Bin Laden possibly for years, without anyone in the army noticing.

The hunt has fuelled long-standing suspicions that some members of the intelligence arm of the Pakistan military - the ISI - are protecting militant leaders.

Asked why they had not checked out the building, an ISI official told the BBC that the compound had been raided when the house was under construction because the authorities believed al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi was there.

But since then, he said, the house had not been on the ISI's radar and that the agency was extremely embarrassed by its intelligence failure.

Was the killing of Bin Laden legal?

The use of deadly force against Bin Laden is unlikely to be challenged in an American court. But the White House's account of the operation suggests it is mindful of legal issues. The al-Qaeda leader is said to have "resisted during the raid" - although it is not clear how he did so, as he is also said to have been unarmed.

Assassinations are banned under both US and international law. Extrajudicial killings are only allowed in an armed conflict.

According to British law professor Philippe Sands QC, of University College London, much will turn on what Pakistan knew and authorised, what the US objectives were, and what happened when they confronted Bin Laden.

Until the facts are established, it is unclear whether the raid and its consequences were legal or not, Mr Sands adds.

The US can certainly argue that it was entitled to take action to protect its citizens against a deadly enemy.

"Even if the use of deadly force was unlawful, international law recognises that there are exceptional circumstances where necessity precludes wrongfulness, and this will be said to be one of those case," Mr Sands told the BBC.




4 May 2011 Last updated at 15:32

The raid: How it happened

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$render("container-guides","guides-1"); Long search for Bin Laden Hunt spanned three decades and two continents Memorial site to September 11th victims in New York

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Abbottabad compound where Bin Laden died


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In pictures: Al-Qaeda leader's life Images from the life of Osama Bin Laden Osama Bin Laden pictured in 1988, as he sits in a cave in the Jalalabad region of Afghanistan

World 'failed to track' Bin Laden


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The BBC's Orla Guerin looks around the perimeter of Bin Laden's compound

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Death of Bin Laden

Pakistan's prime minister says spy agencies worldwide share the blame for his country's failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US forces.

"We have intelligence failure of the rest of the world including the United States," PM Yousuf Raza Gilani said.

Pakistan has been criticised for not locating Bin Laden, who was living near the country's main military academy.

The CIA head has said the US did not tell Islamabad of the raid in advance, for fear it would be jeopardised.

Meanwhile the US has revised its account of how the operation took place.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday that Bin Laden was not armed when his compound was stormed by US special forces in the early hours of Monday.

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image of Aleem Maqbool

Aleem Maqbool BBC News, Abbottabad

There are serious questions about the Pakistanis' involvement or incompetence here.

They are pointing to the fact that they have had a lot of security co-operation over the years with the Americans, and that is why the Americans were ultimately able to carry out this operation - although Pakistan does admit it was not involved in the operation itself.

But the concern for a lot of Pakistanis is the future, and the fact that there may be repercussions.

There are thousands of militants still in the tribal areas, and if they decide to take revenge, it is likely that Pakistani civilians will pay the price, as they have done in the past.

"There was concern that Bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and, indeed, he resisted," he said.

Initially US officials had said the al-Qaeda chief was shot while taking part in a firefight. Mr Carney blamed the initial confusion on the need to provide detailed accounts of a complex military operation quickly.

US officials have said they are considering when to make public their photographs of his body.



Speaking to reporters during a visit to Paris on Wednesday, Mr Gilani said: "There is intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone."

He added that Pakistan needed "the support of the entire world" to combat militants.

"We are fighting and paying a heavy price," he said, adding that his government was "fighting not only for Pakistan but for the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world".

Earlier his foreign minister questioned the suggestion by CIA Director Leon Panetta that Pakistan could not be trusted with details of the operation.

In unusually frank remarks, Mr Panetta told Time magazine: "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets."

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Mardell's America

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There is the suspicion that the US never wanted to take Bin Laden alive”

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image of Mark MardellMark Mardell BBC News, Washington

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told the BBC that this view was "disquieting" and his country had a "pivotal role" in tackling terrorism.

He said the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was shot dead had been identified as suspicious some time ago by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

But it took the greater resources of the CIA to determine that it was the al-Qaeda leader's hiding place, he added.

Several governments in Europe also say Islamabad has questions to answer about what it knew.

US lawmakers are calling for billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan to be reduced or stopped altogether.

Meanwhile, about 70 lawyers staged a rally in Abbottabad on Wednesday, chanting anti-US slogans and shouting that Bin Laden was their "hero".

On Tuesday, Pakistan's foreign ministry defended the ISI and issued a lengthy statement in which it expressed "deep concerns and reservations" about the US action.

"As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009," it said.

American's most wanted man, Bin Laden, aged 54, was the founder and leader of al-Qaeda.

He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.




Yousuf Raza Gilani: "There are lapses from the whole world"

The compound in which he was killed is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Abbottabad says that if Bin Laden had been there for as long as five years, it raises questions about the Pakistani authorities.

Either they were incredibly incompetent or were harbouring the al-Qaeda leader, our correspondent says.

Two couriers and one woman died in the assault, while one of Bin Laden's wives was injured.

The US has not commented on anyone it captured or had planned to capture, other than saying it had taken Bin Laden's body, which was buried at sea.

US officials are discussing how and when to release pictures of Bin Laden's body to counter conspiracy theories that he did not die.

Mr Carney said the "gruesome" image could inflame sensitivities, but Mr Panetta said there was no question it would at some point be shown to the public.



Diagram of the compound