Arrests in Pakistan may include neighbor who lived behind bin Laden

June 16, 2011


ISLAMABAD – The occupant of a large house about 100 yards behind the compound where U.S. special forces shot and killed Osama bin Laden may be among the people Pakistan has arrested for helping the CIA track the terrorist leader down.

U.S. and Pakistani officials acknowledged Wednesday that Pakistan has arrested several of its own citizens for helping the CIA spy on the house where bin Laden lived.

Officials declined to release the names of those being held. But the occupant of the house behind bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, matches the description of one of the detainees, who one Pakistani official said had been a doctor in the army’s medical corps.

The house’s watchtowers would have provided a clear view of the walled compound where bin Laden is suspected of having lived for perhaps as long as five years. The nameplate outside the home identified the resident as Major Amir Aziz. Neighbors said he was a doctor.

The Pakistan military, in a statement Wednesday, said no serving officer had been arrested; the name plate gave no indication of whether Major Aziz was serving or retired.

The arrests of people who might have helped track bin Laden highlight the deep distrust that continues to plague relations between Washington and Islamabad, two anti-terror allies. Pakistan fears that the CIA has set up its own independent spy network in the country, a tactic apparently confirmed by the operation to eliminate bin Laden.

Washington is pressing Islamabad to urgently mount joint operations to strike at the remainder of al-Qaida in Pakistan, as the organization reels from the loss of its leader and the disclosure of a huge amount of data on its workings, gathered from the bin Laden compound.

But the Pakistani military, which controls security policy in a country with a weak civilian government, is still angry at the perceived humiliation it suffered as a result of the unilateral May 2 U.S. special forces raid into the country, which was undetected by Pakistan’s air defense network, even though Abbottabad is a military town and home to Pakistan’s prestigious national military academy.

Those arrested in Abbottabad had monitored the bin Laden house, noting number plates of vehicles coming and going, and “patterns of life” at the compound, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. They include the owner of a safe house rented to CIA operatives to spy on the bin Laden home.

A Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that the detentions included a former army medical corps doctor. The army medical corps is headquartered in Abbottabad.

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