Friday, June 24, 2011

Cell phone gives clues to bin Laden’s Pakistan links

A mobile phone collected among other items after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan contained contacts to Harakatul Mujahedeen, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing senior US officials briefed on these findings.

The cell phone indicated that Bin Laden used Harkat as part of his support network inside Pakistan, the newspaper said, citing the officials and other sources it did not identify.

The phone belonged to bin Laden’s courier, who was also killed along with the al Qaeda leader in the May 2 raid by US special forces on bin Laden’s compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, the Times said.

“We cannot confirm this account,” a US official in Washington said when asked about the report.

The US kept Islamabad in the dark about the raid by Navy SEALs until after it was completed.

In tracing calls on the cell phone, US analysts determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the newspaper reported, citing senior American officials.

The officials added the contacts were not necessarily about bin Laden and his protection and that there was no “smoking gun” showing that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had protected bin Laden, the newspaper said.

The newspaper quoted one of the officials as saying the mobile phone analysis was a “serious lead” in the hunt for answers about how bin Laden managed to evade notice by Pakistan’s ISI or military for years in the town, only 150km from the capital.