ABBOTTABAD: A sacked Pakistani health worker recalled Wednesday how she knocked on Osama bin Laden’s door just days before he was shot dead by American soldiers, an unwitting pawn in a controversial vaccination programme set up by the CIA to ensnare the al Qaeda leader.
Amna Bibi spoke to AFP while revisiting the site of bin Laden’s destroyed home with two other health workers on the anniversary of the American raid. Sacked by the government over the fake vaccination programme, they said they had been dismissed unfairly and demanded their jobs back.
Pakistan arrested surgeon Shakeel Afridi, who was recruited by the CIA to help track down the al Qaeda terror leader and was among a total of 18 health workers who were dismissed.
The United States was not 100 percent sure that bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad house when Navy SEALs went ahead with the raid on May 2. British newspaper The Guardian said Afridi was recruited by the CIA for an elaborate scheme to vaccinate residents for hepatitis B, a ploy to get a DNA sample from those living in the house.
“I was assigned to the vaccination of hepatitis B on April 20, and on April 20 Shakeel Afridi came himself to manage the campaign,” Bibi told AFP.
“We came to this compound. We knocked at the door for five minutes, but no one opened the door. Then we went into the house in front of Osama’s compound and asked for their number, and one girl gave us Tariq’s number,” she said, referring to one of the men killed in the American raid on May 2 and now known to have been sheltering the bin Laden family.
“Then Shakeel Afridi called Tariq but he told him they were far away from the house and couldn’t come back, so we left. Then Shakeel Afridi continued to call me from Peshawar to go to this compound to vaccinate the women inside.”
But Bibi claimed she told the doctor she had a pain in her leg and could not return, despite his further requests to do so. Then, on April 25, he telephoned and told them not to go to the compound again.
“On May 2, we heard about this incident and I called Shakeel Afridi back and asked him about the house, saying it was attacked by the Americans. He got angry and said he was in a meeting and not to talk to him. I called him again the next day and again he gave the same answer,” she said.
Pakistani officials believe Afridi may have known about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and shared the information with US intelligence agents. He faces a trial for treason.
Shaheena Mumraiz, another sacked health worker, said Afridi asked her for data on women aged 15 to 40 in Abbottabad, but that she had not been selected to take part in the vaccination campaign.
“I never visited Osama bin Laden’s house,” she said. “The department has asked us not to go to court and to the media. But we came here to record our protest and we want our jobs back.”