In a major embarrassment for U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials, new details reveal that the world's most-wanted terrorist wasn't exactly keeping a low-profile in the aftermath of 9/11. A new Pakistani police report, based on interrogations of Osama bin Laden's youngest wife, says while on the run, the Al Qaeda leader lived in five separate houses and fathered four kids who were born in public hospitals—activities that someone trying to stay completely off the grid would want to avoid. The report offers the most revealing window yet into his family's scramble to avoid detection during history's most expensive manhunt.
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn was first to uncover the police report and took little time to scold its own country's spy network for the massive intelligence failure. "From Peshawar to Swat to Haripur to Abbottabad, the man responsible for the events of 9/11 somehow found shelter in Pakistan’s settled areas for months and, in some instances, years at a time," reads an editorial in today's paper. "Meanwhile, Pakistani officials kept denying knowledge of his whereabouts, with Gen Musharraf claiming that he was either dead or in Afghanistan or the tribal areas."
The AFP focuses on bin Laden's prolific baby-making, which included having four children with youngest wife Amal Abdulfattah. "In Haripur, Aasia, a girl, was born in 2003 and Ibrahim, a boy, was born the next year. On both occasions Abdulfattah gave birth in a public hospital, the police report said. The other two children, Zainab, a girl, and Hussain, a boy, were born in Abbottabad in 2006 and 2008."
The Pakistanis organizing the big family's movements were named "Ibrahim and Abrat" and, according to the report, they were killed during the May raid in Abbottabad by U.S. forces.
The New York Times focuses on the family's surprising under-the-radar movements in high density population centers like Karachi. After 9/11, bin Laden's youngest wife moved there along with other senior al Qaeda figures, "a sprawling city of up to 18 million people," notes the Times. "They changed houses up to seven times under arrangements brokered by 'some Pakistani family' and Bin Laden’s elder son, Saad." While all this was happening, U.S. officials were intensely focused on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.
The family didn't end up moving to Abbottabad until mid 2005, according to Abdulfattah, and the rest is history. In hindsight, it's easy to say the CIA should've been able to sniff out one of the most recognizable faces on the planet during one of these moves. However, it's undeniable that America's Pakistani allies were either wildly incompetent or complicit in keeping the terrorist leader under cover. As Dawn's editorial board writes: "If Pakistani intelligence is really incompetent enough to have overlooked bin Laden’s presence for so long and in so many places, it is vital that the flaws in the system be identified and addressed. And if the failure had more to do with complicity than incompetence, it becomes even more important to discover how and why our institutions were penetrated, and at what levels."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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