Pakistan defends Bin Laden role

Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden compound

Osama Bin Laden compound

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari has denied that the killing of Osama Bin Laden in his country is a sign of its failure to tackle terrorism.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Mr Zardari said his country was “perhaps the world’s greatest victim of terrorism”.

Bin Laden was shot dead by US forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad – Pakistan was not involved in the raid.

US officials said Bin Laden must have had a support system in Pakistan.

Bin Laden, 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.

He was America’s most wanted man but had eluded them for more than a decade.

But US officials say they are “99.9%” sure that the man they shot and killed in a raid on a secure compound in Abbottabad and later buried at sea was Bin Laden.

They said a video had been made of Bin Laden’s burial but have not said yet whether it, or any photographs of Bin Laden’s body, will be released.

‘Enormous price’
The compound in Abbottabad is just a few hundred metres from the Pakistan Military Academy – the country’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst

White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said it was “inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have a support system” in Pakistan.

But in his opinion piece, Mr Zardari said Pakistan had “never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media”.

“Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact,” he said.

“Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan’s war as it is America’s.”

He said Pakistan, which has suffered repeated terror attacks on its civilians and security services, had “paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism”.

“More of our soldiers have died than all of Nato’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. ”

Mr Zardari added that Pakistan would not be intimidated by threats from al-Qaeda.

US officials have said Pakistan was not involved in the operation to kill Bin Laden.

But Mr Zardari said that although the two countries had not worked together on the operation, “a decade of co-operation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama Bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilised world”.

Mr Zardari gave no explanation as to how Bin Laden had been able to live in relative comfort in Pakistan, but simply said he “was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be”.

The BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says the Pakistani government is in a very difficult position – domestically the public are angry, while the US now wants to know whether any other wanted figures have found sanctuary there.

The silence from Pakistan’s security service is perhaps the most surprising aspect so far, says our correspondent.

US President Barack Obama watched the entire operation in real time in the White House with his national security team.

Mr Brennan said: “The minutes passed like days.”

CIA director Leon Panetta narrated via a video screen from a separate Washington office, with Bin Laden given the code name Geronimo.

Mr Panetta’s narration lasted several minutes. “They’ve reached the target… We have a visual on Geronimo… Geronimo EKIA (enemy killed in action).”

Mr Obama said: “We got him.”

Bin Laden, his son Khalid, trusted personal courier Sheikh Abu Ahmed and the courier’s brother were all killed, along with an unidentified woman.

Bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away a section of his skull, and was also shot in the chest.

Bin Laden’s wife was shot in the calf and was one of nine women taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, along with 23 children, a US official quoted by Associated Press said.

Mr Obama hailed the death of Bin Laden as “good day for America”, and said the world was now a safer and a better place.

He also praised the “heroes” who carried out the operations and, in a speech to congressional leaders, called for them to show “the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11”.

After Mr Obama announced the news on Sunday night, there were jubilant scenes in Washington, New York and around the US.

But the US said the threat of terror attacks was not over, warning Americans of the possibility of al-Qaeda reprisal attacks.

Security has been increased at embassies and airports.

The US has closed its consulates in Lahore and Peshawar in Pakistan, but the embassy in Islamabad and consulate in Karachi have been reopened.

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