Osama Bin Laden: Pentagon releases home videos

BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner on the significance of the new material

The Pentagon has released home videos of Osama Bin Laden, seized at the secret Pakistani compound where he was shot dead by US commandos.

The tapes show him watching himself on television, and preparing a video message addressed to the US.

At a news briefing in Washington, intelligence officials said Bin Laden had been actively leading al-Qaeda from the compound in Abbottabad.

Five videos seized during Monday's raid have been released.

Rehearsals

In the first video, Bin Laden is shown wearing a white skullcap and shirt and a golden robe. He speaks to the camera in the style of previous video addresses by the al-Qaeda leader.

Analysis

Of the five clips released by the Pentagon, and said by them to have been seized from Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, only one is truly remarkable. It appears to show an aged and frail Bin Laden squatting on the floor of a very basic room with jerry-rigged electrical wiring, watching television.

There is nothing glamorous about his surroundings, which resemble an urban squat. Yet a senior but unnamed US intelligence official has told journalists in Washington they now believe the compound raided by US Navy Seals last Monday was an al-Qaeda command and control centre.

If they're right then the idea of Bin Laden being too busy evading capture to get involved in operations all this time will turn out to be badly wrong.

But Noman Benotman, who knew Bin Laden personally up til 2000, tells me this is wrong, that Bin Laden was a spiritual leader but in no way a military commander.

Pentagon officials have removed audio from the film, citing security concerns, but said it was a message to the United States.

Three other clips appear to be rehearsals for the video message, says the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington.

It is the first such film to emerge since al-Qaeda released a video address from Bin Laden in 2007, says our correspondent.

In another of the videos, Bin Laden is shown watching a programme about himself on Arabic language television.

He is shown sitting on the floor wrapped in what looks like a blanket or a coat, holding a remote control.

As he watches TV he strokes his beard, which appears much greyer than in the other videos.

In one scene, he watches a programme showing an image of himself superimposed on a picture of the World Trade Center in flames after it was hit by hijacked planes.

There is nothing in the videos to place Bin Laden in the compound where he was killed.

'No kidney problems'

But the clips' release is part of an ongoing effort by the US administration to convince doubters that Osama Bin Laden was killed in last Monday's raid, says our correspondent.

Osama Bin Laden (TV still) In one video, Bin Laden is seen watching an item about himself on television

The US raid yielded the "single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever," a senior US defence official said on Saturday.

Officials are examining computers, DVDs, hard drives and documents seized from the Abbottabad home where Bin Laden may have hidden for up to six years.

A senior intelligence official told reporters at the Pentagon that Bin Laden had remained a key player in al-Qaeda, overseeing strategy and operations from his Abbottabad home.

"He was far from a figurehead, he was an active player," the official said.

Meanwhile, Bin Laden's Yemeni wife has said that he had recovered from his widely publicised kidney problems, Pakistani officials who are questioning her told the BBC.

Twenty-nine-year-old Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah - who was shot in the leg during the US Navy Seals raid - said her husband had been "in perfect health", according to a senior Pakistani official.

He also told the BBC that they had not received any request from Washington to extradite her to the US.

The official also denied Pakistani media reports that Bin Laden's Yemeni wife had told them the al-Qaeda chief lived in a village near Abbottabad, before moving to the compound where he died.

Three men and a woman were killed alongside Bin Laden, including one of his sons, in the American operation, say US officials.

Pakistani officials have said that three of Bin Laden's wives and 13 children were removed from the house.

Map of Abbottabad
Diagram of the compound

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