South Asia

Bin Laden: Zardari denies Pakistan lax on terror

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Media captionFootage from inside Bin Laden's compound

Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has denied that the killing of Osama Bin Laden in his country is a sign of its failure to tackle terrorism.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Mr Zardari said his country was "perhaps the world's greatest victim of terrorism".

Bin Laden was shot dead by US forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Pakistan was not involved in the raid.

US officials said Bin Laden must have had a support system in Pakistan.

Bin Laden, 54, was the founder and leader of al-Qaeda. He is believed to have ordered the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, as well as a number of other deadly bombings.

He was America's most wanted man but had eluded them for more than a decade.

US officials say they are "99.9%" sure that the man they shot and killed in a raid on a secure compound in Abbottabad and later buried at sea was Bin Laden.

They said a video had been made of Bin Laden's burial but have not said yet whether it, or any photographs of Bin Laden's body, will be released.

'Enormous price'

The compound in Abbottabad is about a kilometre from the Pakistan Military Academy, the country's equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst.

White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said it was "inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have a support system" in Pakistan.

But in his opinion piece, Mr Zardari said Pakistan had "never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media".

"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect fact," he said.

"Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan's war as it is America's."

He said Pakistan, which has suffered repeated terror attacks on its civilians and security services, had "paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism".

"More of our soldiers have died than all of Nato's casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost."

Mr Zardari said that although the US and Pakistan had not worked together on the operation, there had been "a decade of co-operation and partnership".

He gave no explanation as to how Bin Laden had been able to live in relative comfort in Pakistan, but simply said he "was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be".

'Geronimo'

US President Barack Obama watched the entire operation in real time in the White House with his national security team.

Mr Brennan said: "The minutes passed like days."

CIA director Leon Panetta narrated via a video screen from a separate Washington office, with Bin Laden given the code name Geronimo.

Mr Panetta's narration lasted several minutes. "They've reached the target... We have a visual on Geronimo... Geronimo EKIA (enemy killed in action)."

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Media captionPresident Obama: "We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for"

Mr Obama said: "We got him."

Bin Laden, his son Khalid, trusted personal courier Sheikh Abu Ahmed and the courier's brother were all killed, along with an unidentified woman.

Bin Laden was shot above his left eye, blowing away a section of his skull, and was also shot in the chest.

Bin Laden's wife was shot in the calf and was one of nine women taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, along with a number of children, a US official quoted by Associated Press said.

The CIA is now said to be going through a large number of hard drives and storage devices seized in the raid.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad says he has been given new or differing accounts of some of the events of the raid by an official from Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency. They include:

  • There were 17-18 people in the compound at the time of the attack
  • The Americans took away one person still alive, possibly a Bin Laden son
  • Those who survived the attack included a wife, a daughter and eight to nine other children, not apparently Bin Laden's; all subsequently had their hands tied
  • The surviving Yemeni wife said they had moved to the compound a few months ago
  • Bin Laden's daughter, aged 12 or 13, saw her father shot
  • The compound in Abbottabad had been raided in 2003 but not since

Our correspondent says the official said the ISI was embarrassed by its intelligence failure.

The BBC's Andrew North in Washington says the White House is still discussing whether to release the video of Bin Laden's burial from an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea, which some Islamic scholars have said did not conform with tradition.

Our correspondent says many people will want proof that Bin Laden is dead but the White House will be concerned about the reaction if the video, and still photographs of the body, are released.

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