Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Bin Laden's Youngest Wife Tells Tale of a Life on the Run

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Osama bin LadenA Pakistani court convicted three of Osama bin Laden’s surviving wives and two of his daughters of being illegally present in the country. According to the sentences handed down on Monday, the five women will serve a 45-day prison sentence with credit for time served, after whch they will likely be deported.

The three spouses have admitted to illegally immigrating to Pakistan and are being kept under house arrest in the capital city of Islamabad. According to Mohammed Amir Khalil, an attorney representing all five women, they are scheduled to be deported on April 15.

Two of the widows are from Saudi Arabia (birthplace of Osama bin Laden) while the other is Yemeni. According to information provided by Khalil, the government of Yemen has given permission for the wife from that nation to return, but Saudi Arabia is still deliberating the case of the two wives who are natives of that country. A certain disincentive may exist for Saudi Arabia to allow the immigration of the two bin Laden widows, as their former husband was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 after he verbally attacked the royal family that still rules the country.

Besides the prison sentence and the deportation order, each of the women was ordered to pay a fine of about $110. Attorney Khalil says that he does not anticipate appealing the court’s decision.

The widows and children of former public enemy number one were formally arrested on March 3 of this year, but have been detained by the government of Pakistan since May 2, 2011, the day their infamous kinsman was reportedly killed after a 40-minute firefight by an American special forces team.

The United States’ carrying out of a unilateral operation to kill the alleged al-Qaeda commander placed a strain on relations with Islamabad as the Pakistani government was accused of failing to track the 54-year-old militant and even of perhaps having facilitated his eluding of American armed forces for years. Either way, it was assumed by many that the bin Laden raid and death indicated incompetence or complicity on the part of the Pakistani military. 

Although Pakistan has been described by Presidents Bush and Obama as an ally in the “War on Terror,” there have been numerous events that cast considerable doubt on that appellation.

For example, in December of last year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan established a committee to investigate the source of a communique sent last May from an unidentified Pakistani authority to U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen pleading for assistance in thwarting an armed overthrow of the government. 

Rumors in government circles in both the United States and Pakistan point to either former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani or President Asif Ali Zardari as having written or sponsored the memo. Neither man has accepted responsibility.

While the criminal proceedings against five female members of Osama bin Laden’s family are nominally newsworthy on their own, the stories told by those women is where the real value is likely to be found, especially with regard to how the allegedly infirm al-Qaeda leader was able to stay one step ahead of the world’s finest corps of commandos.

Witness the compelling testimony given by Osama bin Laden's youngest wife, 30-year-old Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada of Yemen. During questioning by Pakistani authorities, al-Sada shed light on the peripatetic life led by Osama bin Laden for over a decade since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of al-Sada’s answers to the questions posed by her Pakistani interrogators and they reveal that for nine years after leaving Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden occupied five different safe houses inside Pakistan while successfully avoiding capture by the American ground and air forces trying to find and destroy him.

Perhaps more impressive than bin Laden’s ability to elude capture was his fecundity. According to the Associated Press’s account of the al-Sada statement, while on the run in Pakistan, bin Laden fathered four children — two of whom were actually delivered at government-owned hospitals.

As for her nuptials to bin Laden, al-Sada says she was married to the mastermind in Afghanistan in 2000 prior to the events on September 11.

Following that fateful day, al-Sada says that the extended bin Laden family fled to different locales; for her part, she stayed briefly in Karachi, Pakistan, before moving on to rendezvous with her husband in Peshawar. They didn’t live there long, however, before continuing on to the Swat Valley where they moved back and forth between a couple of different houses.

After leaving the Swat Valley, al-Sada says they lived in one more house before occupying the house in Abbottabad in 2005. This last house was located in an area of town known as Bilal Town. The walled three-story dwelling blended in with the other middle-class homes that surround the Pakistani version of West Point. The neighborhood is home to merchants, office workers, and more than a few refugees from Afghanistan.

As was reported after the raid that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist, al-Sada’s story allegedly confirms that the living conditions at the Abbottabad abode weren’t exactly plush. The widow reports that there were 28 people crammed into the three-story house: These included Osama bin Laden, his three wives, eight of his children, and five of his grandchildren.

Reports from Pakistani officials who investigated the scene after the raid claim that bin Laden’s courier, the courier’s brother, and their wives and children also lived in the compound.

The bin Laden children ranged in age from his son Khaled, who was in his 20s and was killed in the raid, to a three-year-old born during their time in Abbottabad, said Qadir.

All was not peaceful at the bin Laden homestead, however. It appears that familiarity bred contempt as reports reveal a rift between al-Sada, the youngest of the bin Laden wives, and Khairiah Saber, the senior Mrs. bin Laden. The latter lady arrived at the house in Abbottabad in 2011 after nearly 10 years' detention in Iran, said a Pakistani army officer.

So strained were the relations between the two women, in fact, stories began to circulate that Saber planned to drop a dime on her fugitive husband.

Despite such rumors, however, evidence has never been produced that Saber aided her spouse’s American pursuers in any material manner. The official story is that the hideout was discovered by American intelligence agents after they intercepted a cell phone conversation between Osama bin Laden and another person.

Regardless of the events that culminated in the killing of Osama bin Laden, the fact is that following the American attack on the house, government officials in Islamabad immediately sent out word to local Abbottobad law enforcement and land-registry clerks to keep silent regarding the ownership of the compound. As one police officer explained: "The place belonged to Hizbul Mujahedeen, but the authorities have asked us not to share any information about the exact ownership." According to investigative reports on the origins of the Islamic terrorist movement, the George W. Bush administration, through the CIA, gave substantial support (via Pakistan's ISI) to several Pakistani based Islamic groups. The Hizbul Mujahadeen was one of several such groups known to have been funded by the ISI.

Photo: Osama bin Laden

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