Friday, June 24, 2011

Seized bin Laden cellphone provides possible link to Pakistani spy agency

Osama bin Laden phone calls show he had powerful people watching over him

It may not be the 'smoking gun' US investigators were looking for but mobile phone records showing calls between Osama bin Laden's courier and a group inked to Pakistan's ISI indicated he had powerful people watching over him.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden addresses a news conference in Afghanistan
Records show Osama bin Laden was in contact with commanders from Harkat ul Mujahideen (HuM), regarded as an ISI-backed terror group in Pakistan's proxy war with India in Kashmir Photo: REUTERS
Since he was tracked to a large mansion in Abbottabad's army garrison town last month, neither Washington nor Islamabad have been able to explain how he had remained safely hidden 'in plain sight' for at least five years.
His whitewashed three story villa stood out as the largest and most secretive house in the village, where his next-door neighbour, a serving Pakistan Army major, had an uninterrupted view of the compound. It was built in defiance of local army rules which banned the third storey he lived in, but no-one came to complain.
Retired generals and security analysts alike have all said "it's impossible" he could have lived there without the knowledge of some elements of the security services, but until now no-one has offered any evidence which might explain how he did.
The records show he was in contact with commanders from Harkat ul Mujahideen (HuM), regarded as an ISI-backed terror group in Pakistan's proxy war with India in Kashmir.
It would have been a smart choice of support group. Although it had been involved in the 1999 hijacking of an Indian airliner, the 2002 suicide attack on the US consulate in Karachi, and the murder of Daniel Pearl by British terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh, it has since kept a low profile in Pakistan.
Its leader Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil, who is believed to have been consulted by Osama bin Laden before he issued his fatwa against the United States, was recently discovered living openly in a suburb of Islamabad, but does not appear to have been arrested.
Despite being a banned terrorist organisation, HuM maintains a website and lists two accounts at a Karachi bank where supporters can donate funds.
According the New York Times, American officials said the HuM commanders bin Laden's courier had called had in turn been in regular contact with Pakistani intelligence officials.
They have no proof that HuM figures had guarded bin Laden, or that their commanders had been in contact with ISI officials in connection with the al-Qaeda leader. But they do now know that the man charged with guarding bin Laden and conveying his orders to his commanders had strong relationships with an ISI-backed terror network.more

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