Key al Qaeda operative lived in Abbottabad in 2003

Published: May 2, 2011

Pakistani security personnel measure a wall outside the hideout house of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. PHOTO: AFP

REUTERS: While Express News reporters have been told by locals that they are upset at the new-found notoriety of Abbottabad, it has been home to at least one key operative in the past – al Qaeda operational chief Abu Faraj al Libbi.

Al Libbi was captured in Mardan in May 2005 by Pakistani forces and had a long-term association with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.

According to his assessment file released by WikiLeaks, “In July 2003, detainee received a letter from Osama bin Laden’s designated courier, Maulawi Abd al Khaliq Jan, requesting detainee take on the responsibility of collecting donations, organizing travel, and distributing funds to families in Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden stated detainee would be the official messenger between UBL and others in Pakistan. In mid-2003, Abu Faraj al Libbi moved his family to Abbottabad and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar.”

According to a transcript of his combatant status review tribunal hearing, he had travelled to Raiwind in 2003 to meet with representatives of Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin and Taliban officials. They discussed operations against the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Umar Patek, who was wanted in the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed over 200 people, was also arrested in Abbottabad, according to an Associated Press report. He had sought refuge there with a family.
According to the AP report, “officials did not say how or why Patek ended up there, but his arrest followed the detention of an alleged Al Qaeda facilitator in the town called Tahir Shehzad, who worked as a clerk at the town’s post office, a squat building just across the road from the British-era St Luke’s Church. Tahir had been under surveillance since last year when he was spotted in Abbottabad with an Arab terror suspect, said an intelligence official.”

Eight years after al Libbi, Osama bin Laden was found living in the same area, a hilly resort popular with tourists from within Pakistan and a retirement spot for many.
According to Reuters, the location Osama bin Laden lived in was discovered in August 2010.
“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official told Reuters.

“The bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harboured a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden,” another administration official said.

The building, about eight times the size of other nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005. When it was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Abbotabad’s centre, at the end of a dirt road, but some other homes have been built nearby in the six years since it went up, officials said.

Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said. Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash, rather than leaving it for collection as did their neighbours, officials said.

Few windows of the three-story home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot privacy wall, officials said.
“It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million but has no telephone or Internet service connected to it,” an administration official said. “The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.”

U.S. analysts realized that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives – including his youngest wife – they believed would be living with Bin Laden.

“Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers’ background and their behaviour and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected Bin Laden’s hide-out to look like,” another Obama administration official said.

A small US team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound on Sunday afternoon, officials said. After 40 minutes of fighting, Bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men – identified as the courier and his brother – were dead, officials said.

More in Pakistan