WASHINGTON: Up to 40 people had been rounded up across Pakistan including an army major of the medical corps, for aiding and abetting the CIA operation against Osama bin Laden in early May. While US defence secretary Gates dismissed the story as “real world we deal with.”
In a report published by the Washington Post, security personnel on condition of anonymity revealed that between 35 -40 people had been picked up by intelligence agencies across Pakistan for facilitating the CIA for the May 2 US raid that resulted in Osama bin Laden being killed in his Abbottabad villa.
Sources said that an army major, who lived next doors to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Maj. Amir Aziz, and four other people, including peasants who till the surrounding agricultural land had not been seen since shortly after the May 2 incident.
Robert Gates, who is due to step down as the Defence Secretary to make way for Leon Panetta, was answering questions at a Capitol Hill hearing. He was asked by Dem. Sen. Patrick Leahy regarding the accusations that Pakistan was cracking down on CIA informants. Though Gates did not overtly confirm the reports, he suggested that Pakistan and US relations were not exactly copacetic, saying that “most governments lie to each other,” that spying on each other was “real world we deal with.”
Army denies Major among those arrested
Pakistan Army on Wednesday denied news reports that a Major was among five CIA informants arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“There is no army officer detained and the story is false and totally baseless,” said a Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) press release.
One of the detainees was reported to be a Pakistani Army major whom officials said copied license plates of cars visiting the al Qaeda leader’s compound 30 miles northwest of Islamabad.
The fate of the CIA informants arrested in Pakistan is unclear, the newspaper reported, citing American officials.
Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta raised the issue of the informants’ detention during a trip to Islamabad last week where he met with Pakistani military and intelligence officers, the newspaper said.
Some in Washington see the arrest as another sign of the deep disconnect between US and Pakistani priorities in the fight against extremists, the Times reported.
The United States kept Islamabad in the dark about the May 2 raid by Navy SEALs until after it was completed, humiliating Pakistan’s armed forces and putting US military and intelligence ties under serious strain.
Last week, at a closed Senate Intelligence Committee briefing, Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell rated Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations a “three” on a scale of 1 to 10, the Times reported, citing officials familiar with the exchange.
Other officials cautioned that his comments did not represent the administration’s overall assessment, the newspaper said. “We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise,” CIA spokesman Marie Harf told the newspaper.
“Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It’s a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs.”
Asked about the Times report, a CIA spokeswoman neither confirmed nor denied it and said she had no further comment.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, was quoted as saying that the CIA, and the Pakistani spy agency “are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage.”