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Investigating the Bin Laden Family’s Safe Havens

1:00 PM, Mar 12, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Perhaps someday we will learn the real extent of Osama bin Laden’s support network inside Pakistan. A truly independent investigation would begin with bin Laden’s ties to various Pakistani military and intelligence officials in the 1980s and walk forward from there. Or, if one prefers, investigators can walk the cat back from bin Laden’s suitors (if they are known) and supporters as of May 2011 to the days of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

osama bin laden

In any event, the official Pakistani investigation into how bin Laden ended up in Abbottabad, Pakistan – just a short distance from a top military academy – is reportedly moving forward. It remains to be seen what, if any, nuggets of truth are contained in the Abbottabad Commission’s final product.

Meanwhile, a retired Pakistani army brigadier general, Shaukat Qadir, has been pursuing his own investigation, which is mired in irrational conspiracy theories.

One conspiracy theory that has gained traction centers on a rivalry between two of bin Laden’s wives. According to the New York Times, bin Laden’s “fifth and youngest wife,” Amal Ahmed al Sadah, “accused her rival of having betrayed their husband to American intelligence.” Al Sadah’s rival is Khairiah Saber, bin Laden’s first wife.

Saber did not follow bin Laden through the wilds of Pakistan to Abbottabad, but instead fled to Iran after 9/11. There, along with other members of bin Laden’s immediate family – including other wives, sons, and daughters – Saber lived until 2008. According to the Daily Mail (UK), she did not make her way to the Abbottabad compound until early 2011. It was at that point, the tale goes, that tensions between al Sadah and Saber boiled over, eventually leading to Osama bin Laden’s demise.

Saber was supposedly jealous that al Sadah received the terror master’s attention in the bedroom, while she was confined to the floor below.

Contrary to al Sadah’s account, the Daily Mail reports, Qadir “doesn’t believe Saber had any connection with the CIA, but her arrival in Abbottabad revealed to those hunting Bin Laden that he might be there.” Still other reports, Qadir says, suggest that bin Laden greeted his death with open arms in order to escape his supposed confinement and that the terror master’s minions turned him in to earn the American’s $25 million reward.

None of this passes a basic sniff test. And, of course, it contradicts the official U.S. story, in which intelligence officials traced bin Laden to Abbottabad by following his preferred courier, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti.

American intelligence officials found that al Kuwaiti had been in contact with members of Harakat ul Mujahedin (HUM), a terrorist organization long sponsored by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID). HUM, a creation of the ISID, has extensive, longstanding ties to al Qaeda. Citing American intelligence officials, the New York Times previously reported that the “discovery” of al Kuwaiti’s links to HUM “indicates that Bin Laden used” HUM “as part of his support network inside the country.”

That is a far more intriguing lead for Qadir and the Abbottabad Commission to follow. It raises the possibility that the ISID, or elements thereof, was complicit in hiding bin Laden – working with HUM to accomplish the task. We do not know the full extent of that story. But it is a natural starting point for any exhaustive investigation.

The chances that this lead will receive the proper amount of attention are slim, however.

And while we are on the subject of how to properly investigate bin Laden’s support network inside Pakistan, a related topic comes to mind. Recall that bin Laden’s older wife, Khairiah Saber, moved to Iran after 9/11 along with numerous other members of the al Qaeda CEO’s family. Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden’s second in command and current al Qaeda emir, also sent members of his immediate family to Iran for safekeeping.

While the Iranians eventually placed members of bin Laden’s family under a loose form of “house arrest,” they still went on shopping trips, communicated abroad, and in at least some cases remained active in terrorist plotting.

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