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Did Musharraf know bin Laden's hiding place?

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Press Trust of India

Last Updated: February 16, 2012, 02:26 IST

Did Musharraf know bin Laden's hiding place?

US Special Forces killed Osama bin Laden in a pre-dawn raid on a compound in Abbottabad in May 2011.

Islamabad: Former president Pervez Musharraf knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the garrison town of Abbottabad and the Pakistani intelligence itself had made the safe house that sheltered him, a former ISI chief has alleged, according to a media report.

Former CIA official Bruce Riedel quoted ex-ISI chief Gen (retired) Ziauddin Khwaja alias Ziauddin Butt, as saying that Musharraf "knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad".

In an article for The Daily Beast website, Riedel further quoted Butt as saying that bin Laden's safe house in Abbottabad "was made to order" by Brig Ijaz Shah, a former head of the Intelligence Bureau.

"Ziauddin says Ijaz Shah was responsible for setting up bin Laden in Abbottabad, ensuring his safety and keeping him hidden from the outside. And Ziauddin says Musharraf knew all about it," Riedel wrote in the article.

However, Butt told the Geo News channel on Wednesday that he had been misquoted in the article.

He did not give details.

US Special Forces killed the al Qaeda chief in a pre-dawn raid on a compound in Abbottabad, located a short distance from the elite Pakistan Military Academy, in May 2011.

Since then, American officials have questioned whether elements in Pakistan's security establishment were aware of bin Laden's presence in the country.

Bin Laden reportedly lived in the walled compound in Abbottabad for five years.

Riedel referred to US suspicions in his article, writing: "Ever since the Navy SEALs found Osama bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan, less than a mile from the country's national military academy, the question haunting American relations with Pakistan has been: who knew he was there?"

Butt was made head of the ISI by former premier Nawaz Sharif and served in the post during 1997-99.

He was the first head of the army's Strategic Plans Division, which controls the nuclear arsenal.

Sharif promoted Butt to the post of army chief in October 1999 when he tried to fire Musharraf.

Musharraf then launched a coup that deposed Sharif's government.

Butt spent two years in solitary confinement, was discharged from the army and had his property confiscated. Riedel noted that he thus had "a motive to speak harshly about Musharraf".

Brig (retired) Ijaz Shah, a former ISI bureau head in Lahore, served as chief of the Intelligence Bureau when former premier Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan from self-exile in 2007.

Bhutto linked him to an attempt to assassinate her but he denied the charges.

Shah has been closely linked to Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Kashmiri terrorist who was imprisoned in India in 1994 for kidnapping three Britons and an American.

Saeed was freed when Pakistani terrorists hijacked an Indian airliner to Kandahar in December 2000.

Saeed was part of the plot to kidnap journalist Daniel Pearl and turned himself in to Shah.

Riedel further wrote, "We don't know who was helping hide bin Laden but we need to track them down. If (Musharraf) knew, then he should be questioned by the authorities the next time he sets foot in America".

He added that if American authorities can find who hid bin Laden, "we will probably know who is hiding his successor, Ayman Zawahiri, and the rest of the Al Qaeda gang".
first published:February 16, 2012, 02:26 IST
last updated:February 16, 2012, 02:26 IST