Osama Bin Laden spent the last five years living in the room of his mansion where he was shot and killed by U.S. forces, according to Pakistan security officials.
The claims were made by the terrorist leader’s wife, who apparently told interrogators that she and her husband had not left the same room for the past half a decade.
The revelations of Amal al-Sadah ( pictured) , Bin Laden’s Yemeni wife, sheds new light on the existence of the world’s most wanted man.
Pakistan continues to defend its failure to uncover Bin Laden, who had been living in the Abbottabad region next to a military base for at least the past half a decade, and officials have rubbished claims that the country’s secret services have links to Al Qaeda.
It also emerged today that the only way Bin Laden could have avoided being killed in the raid by U.S. forces is if he was naked.
The elite U.S. Navy Seals team that killed him was told to assume he was wearing a suicide vest if he was clothed, according to a briefing given to a congressional aide.
The aide – briefed on the rules of engagement – revealed that Bin Laden ‘would have had to be naked for them to allow him to surrender’.
The terror mastermind was wearing his nightclothes – believed to be pyjamas – when the commandos stormed his compound in Abbottabad.
The admission raises the question of whether the operation targeting the Al Qaeda chief – in which he was shot in the head by a U.S. commando at a hideout in Abbottabad in Pakistan – would have done anything other than kill him.
Military specialists have said that, even arriving in helicopters whose noisy approach would have alerted the house’s occupants and all but ensured a fight, were typical of a ‘kill raid’.
A special forces officer told the LA Times: ‘If anyone feels in any way that there is a hostile threat … deadly force will be authorised.
‘It is a judgment call.’The raid on Bin Laden’s lair has been the focus of a constantly changing stream of information from the White House.
Initially, chief counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan claimed commandos were under orders to capture the terror head alive: ‘If we had the opportunity to take Bin Laden alive, if he didn’t present any threat, the individuals involved were able and prepared to do that.’
However, on Tuesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Bin Laden ‘made some threatening moves’, adding ‘to be frank, I don’t think he had a lot of time to say anything.’
‘It was a firefight going up that compound. By the time they got to the third floor and found Bin Laden, I think this was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs,’ he added in a PBS NewsHour interview.
Privately, U.S national security officials have said there was never any intention to capture Bin Laden alive.
Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking to head off suggestions that killing Bin Laden was illegal, said the U.S. commandos who raided the hide-out had carried out a justifiable act of national self-defence.
Holder said he was a legitimate military target and had made no attempt to surrender to the American forces who stormed his fortified compound near Islamabad and shot him in the head.
‘It was justified as an act of national self-defence,’ Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, citing Bin Laden’s admission of being involved in the September 11 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.
It was lawful to target Bin Laden because he was the enemy commander in the field and the operation was conducted in a way that was consistent with U.S. laws and values, he said, adding that it was a ‘kill or capture mission’.
‘If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate,’ he said.
Among those to have voiced concern over the killing of Osama Bin Laden is the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said today Bin Laden’s death left him with ‘a very uncomfortable feeling’.
Dr Rowan Williams said: ‘I think the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn’t look as if justice is seen to be done.
“In those circumstances I think it’s also true that the different versions of events that have emerged in recent days have not done a great deal to help.
‘I don’t know the full details any more than anyone else does. But I do believe that in such circumstances when we are faced with someone who was manifestly a war criminal in terms of the atrocities inflicted it is important that justice is seen to be served.’
Whatever the doubts in Europe, however, President Barack Obama is likely to be cheered from the rootops as he attends a ceremony in New York today to mark the killing of Osama bin Laden and meet families of some of the victims of the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda in 2001.
During an interview with CBS television’s 60 Minutes last night, the President confirmed the pictures would remain secret.
‘It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.
‘That’s not who we are. We don’t trot this stuff out as trophies.
‘The fact of the matter is, this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received. And I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he has gone.
“I think that given the graphic nature of these photos it would create some national security risk.’
To those who keep on doubting, he added :’You will not see Bin Laden walking on this earth again.”
The refusal by the White House to release the photos will anger members of Obama’s senior advisory team who had pushed for them to be made public.
But within minutes of the White House announcement, graphic photographs – thought to show Bin Laden’s son, a trusted courier and another aide killed in the raid – were made public.
The photographs, released by Reuters news agency, show the graphic aftermath of the raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound.
They were taken about an hour after the U.S. assault and show the three dead men, believed to be courier Arshad Khan, another trusted aide and Bin Laden’s son Khalid, lying in pools of blood without weapons.
The decision not to release the Bin Laden pictures has been criticised by former Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
She has compared it to the President’s attempts to hold back his birth certificate, and wrote on Twitter: ‘Show the photos as a warning to others seeking America’s destruction.
‘No pussy-footing around, no politicking, no drama; it’s part of the mission.’
The furore over the photograph’s release comes amid suggestions that the compound may have been a ‘nerve centre’ for Al Qaeda.
Special forces have removed a treasure trove of evidence, with a reported haul of ten computers, ten mobile phones and 100 memory sticks.
Experts are now poring through the evidence from the very centre of the terror network. It has also emerged that a top Indonesian terror suspect arrested this year in the town where Osama bin Laden was killed was intending to meet the al-Qaida chief.
However, a senior American counter-terrorism official said the two never met and Umar Patek’s arrest in Abbottabad ‘appears to have been pure coincidence.’
In Rome today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Bin Laden’s death ‘sent an unmistakable message about the strength and the resolve of the international community to stand against extremism and those who perpetuate it.’
‘I think our resolve is even stronger after Bin Laden’s death because we know it will have an impact on those who are on the battlefield in Afghanistan,’ she said.
She and others say they hope Al Qaeda sympathisers and other militants may now be more inclined to give up violence and rejoin Afghan society.
Clinton said U.S. plans to begin drawing down American forces in Afghanistan in July will continue even as she acknowledged that the battle against terrorism was far from over.
‘Let us not forget that the battle to stop Al Qaeda and its affiliates does not end with one death,’ she said. ‘We have to renew our resolve and redouble our efforts, not only in Afghanistan and Pakistan but around the world.
‘It is especially important that there be no doubt that those who pursue a terrorist agenda, the criminals who indiscriminately murder innocent people, will be brought to justice.’
Many in the U.S. have questioned Pakistan’s reliability as an ally, given that Bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in a military garrison town outside Islamabad. Some have even questioned U.S. aid to Pakistan, something the Obama administration has said is vital to the war on terror.
Clinton maintained the U.S. must remain engaged with Pakistan.
‘It is not always an easy relationship,’ she said. ‘But on the other hand, it is a productive one for both of our countries and we are going to continue to co-operate between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies.’
Clinton spoke during a press conference in Rome for a meeting of the Libyan Contact Group, which is discussing ways to support the rebels fighting Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.
She spoke after Pakistan warned America today of ‘disastrous consequences’ if it carries out any more unauthorised raids against suspected terrorists on its soil.
However, the government in Islamabad stopped short of labeling Monday’s helicopter raid on Bin Laden’s compound not far from the capital Islamabad as an illegal operation and insisted relations between Washington and Islamabad remain on course.
The army and the government have come under criticism domestically for allowing the country’s sovereignty to be violated. Some critics have expressed doubts about government claims that it was not aware of the raid until after it was over.
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said: ‘The Pakistan security forces are neither incompetent nor negligent about their sacred duty to protect Pakistan.
‘There shall not be any doubt that any repetition of such an act will have disastrous consequences,’ he said.
Bashir repeated Pakistani claims that it did not know anything about the raid until it was too late to stop it.
He said the army scrambled two F-16 fighter jets when it was aware that foreign helicopters were hovering over the city of Abbottabad, but they apparently did not get to the choppers on time.
‘There were four helicopters coming in very low and the protocols set in. Jets were being scrambled, but they were called back in as the U.S. then informed the high command,’ another official said.
‘They gave us a grid and told us that they were going there after ‘a high-value’ target. There are certain protocols when that happens – we take care of the outer security, while they go in and do their work,’ he said. ‘We certainly didn’t know who exactly was in there.’
Bashir said perceptions that Pakistan’s ties with Islamabad were at rock bottom were untrue.
‘We acknowledge the United States is an important friend,’ he said. ‘Basically Pakistan and U.S. relations are moving in the right direction.’
However, it emerged tonight that Pakistan had ordered that America’s military presence in the country be reduced to ‘minimum essential’ levels.
The U.S. only has 275 declared military personnel in the country, but is widely believed to have a larger clandestine intelligence presence there as well.
Meanwhile, security officials in Pakistan today disputed the American version of events in the compound.
The White House has cited the ‘fog of war’ as a reason for initial misinformation that Bin Laden was armed and had used his wife as a human shield.
Two senior Pakistani officials said there was no 40-minute firefight because the inhabitants never fired back.
“The people inside the house were unarmed. There was no resistance,’ one said, who described the killing as ‘cold-blooded’.
And in a revelation which appears to lend weight to the claims in Pakistan, a senior U.S. defence official told reporters that only one of the five people killed in the raid that took down Osama Bin Laden was armed and ever fired a shot.
And the official said the shooter was killed in the early minutes of the commando assault, in an account that differs greatly from the original reports which portrayed a chaotic, prolonged firefight amid stiff resistance.
The new details emerged after officials debriefed the Navy Seals who pulled off the raid in Pakistan.
He said the operation was a precision, floor-by-floor mission through Bin Laden’s compound where all of the others encountered were not carrying weapons and were quickly eliminated.
However, as the debate over the raid and its ramifications intensifies, a picture of the daily life of the terror head is emerging – including the fact that the compound may have been a ‘no smoking zone’.
Mohammad Usman, who runs a shop close to the hide-out, said Arshad Khan and his brother – who locals say bought the plot for the house in 2005 – used to buy food such as biscuits in weekly shops.
He told The Independent that they would also buy a couple of cigarettes at a time. The cigarettes – John Player Gold Leaf – would always be smoked while they stood outside his store: ‘They never took a whole pack home with them,’ the shopkeeper told the newspaper.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today she has ‘no idea’ what she and the rest of President Barack Obama’s national security team were watching at the precise moment that a photographer snapped what has become an iconic image of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.
‘Those were 38 of the most intense minutes,’ Clinton said of the raid on Bin Laden’s compound by U.S. Navy Seals.
‘I have no idea what any of us were looking at at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken.’
The photo was taken by the White House photographer on Sunday night as Obama and his national security team monitored the assault. Clinton is covering her mouth with her right hand, but she said that the gesture might not convey any special significance.
‘I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs,’ she said.
‘So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.’