Bin Laden's wife spent 6 years in Pakistani house

This is an undated photo of al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, in Afghanistan, wanted by the United States government on account of the 1998 bombing of two U. S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden is hiding out in Afghanistan as guest of its Islamic rulers, the Taliban. Afghanistan's hardline Taliban rulers condemned the devastating terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 and rejected suggestions that Osama bin Laden could be behind them. (AP Photo)
May 6, 2011 4:06:40 AM PDT
One of three wives living with Osama bin Laden has told Pakistani interrogators she had been staying in the al-Qaida chief's hideout for six years without leaving its upper floors, a Pakistani intelligence official said Friday.

The woman, identified as Yemeni-born Amal Ahmed Abdullfattah, and the other two wives of bin Laden are being interrogated in Pakistan after they were taken into custody following the American raid on bin Laden's compound in the town of Abbottabad.

Pakistani authorities are also holding eight or nine children who were found there after the U.S. commandos left.

The corpses of at least three slain men were also left behind, while bin Laden's body was taken and buried at sea.

The wives' accounts will help show how bin Laden spent his time and how he managed to avoid capture, living in a large house close to military academy in a garrison town, a two-and-a-half hours' drive from the capital Islamabad.

Given shifting and incomplete accounts from U.S. officials about what happened during the raid, the women's testimonies may also be significant in unveiling details about the operation.

A Pakistani official said CIA officers had not been given access to the women in custody. Military and intelligence relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained even before Monday's helicopter-borne raid, and have become more so in its aftermath. There is also anger among Pakistanis over the raid, which many see as a violation of their country's sovereignty.

On Friday, American drone-fired missiles killed 10 people in North Waziristan, an al-Qaida and Taliban hotspot close to Afghanistan, Pakistani officials said. The strike risks more tensions between the two countries. Such attacks were routine last year, but their frequency has dropped this year amid opposition by the Pakistan security establishment. The Pakistani intelligence official did not say on Friday whether the Yemeni wife has said that bin Laden was also living there since 2006. "We are still getting information from them," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give his name to the media.

A security official said the wife was shot in the leg during the operation, and did not witness her husband being killed. He also said one of bin Laden's eldest daughters had said she witnessed the Americans killing her father.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's intelligence agency has concluded that bin Laden was "cash strapped" in his final days and that al-Qaida had split into two factions, with the larger one controlled by the group's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, according to a briefing given by a senior officer in the agency.

The officer spoke to a small group of Pakistani reporters late Thursday. A top military officer also present at the briefing told The Associated Press what was said, as did two of the journalists. All asked that their names not be used because of the sensitivity of the meeting.

The officer didn't provide details or elaborate how his agency made the conclusions about bin Laden's financial situation or the split with his deputy, al-Zawahri. The al-Qaida chief had apparently lived without any guards at the Abbottabad compound or loyalists nearby to take up arms in his defense.

The image of Pakistan's intelligence agency has been battered at home and abroad in the wake of the raid that killed bin Laden. Portraying him as isolated and weak may be aimed at trying to create an impression that a failure to spot him was not so important.

Documents taken from the house by American commandos showed that bin Laden was planning to hit America, however, including a plan for derailing an American train on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The confiscated materials reveal the rail attack was planned as of February 2010.

Late Thursday, two Pakistani officials cited bin Laden's wives and children as saying he and his associates had not offered any "significant resistance" when the American commandos entered the compound, in part because the assailants had thrown "stun bombs" that disorientated them.

One official said Pakistani authorities found an AK-47 and a pistol in the house belonging to those in the house, with evidence that one bullet had been fired from the rifle.

"That was the level of resistance" they put up, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

His account is roughly consistent with the most recent one given by U.S. officials, who now say one of the five people, killed in the raid was armed and fired any shots, a striking departure from the intense and prolonged firefight described earlier by the White House and others in the administration.

U.S. officials say four men were killed alongside bin Laden, including one of his sons.

The raid has exacerbated tensions between America and Pakistan. The army here is angry that it was not told about the unilateral raid on a target within its territory, while there are suspicions in Washington that bin Laden may have been protected by Pakistani security forces while on the run.


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