One of three wives living with Osama bin Laden has told Pakistani interrogators she had been staying in the al-Qaida chief’s hideout for six years without leaving its upper floors, a Pakistani intelligence official said Friday.
The woman, identified as Yemini-born Amal Ahmed Abdullfattah, and the other two wives of bin Laden are being interrogated in Pakistan after they were taken into custody following the American raid on bin Laden’s compound in the town of Abbottabad.
Pakistani authorities are also holding eight or nine children who were found there after the U.S. commandos left. The corpses of at least three slain men were also left behind.
The wives’ accounts will help show how bin Laden spent his time and how he managed to avoid capture, living in a large house close to military academy in a garrison town, a two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the capital Islamabad. Given shifting and incomplete accounts from U.S. officials about what happened during the raid, the women’s testimonies may also be significant in unveiling details about the operation.
A Pakistani official said CIA officers had not been given access to the women in custody. Military and intelligence relations between the United States and Pakistan have been strained even before Monday’s helicopter-borne raid, and have become more so in the aftermath.
The Pakistani intelligence official did not say on Friday whether the Yemeni wife has said that bin Laden was also living there since 2006. A security official said she was shot in the leg during the operation, and did not witness her husband being killed.
“We are still getting information from them,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give his name to the media.
Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said that Osama bin Laden was “cash strapped” in his final days and that al-Qaida had split into two factions, with the larger one controlled by the group’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The official spoke to a small group of Pakistani reporters late Thursday. Two journalists at the meeting told The Associated Press what the official said, asking their names not be used because of the sensitivity of the meeting.
The official didn’t provide details or elaborate how his agency made the conclusions about bin Laden. The al-Qaida chief had apparently lived without any guards at the Abbottabad compound or loyalists nearby to take up arms in his defense.
The image of Pakistan’s intelligence agency has been battered in the wake of Monday’s U.S. commando raid that killed bin Laden. Portraying him as isolated and weak may be aimed at trying to deflect attention from that.
Late Thursday, two Pakistani officials cited the women and children as saying bin Laden and his associates had not offered any “significant resistance” when the American commandos entered the compound, in part because the assailants had thrown “stun bombs” that disorientated them.
One official said Pakistani authorities found an AK-47 and a pistol in the house belonging to those in the house, with evidence that one bullet had been fired from the rifle.
“That was the level of resistance” they put up, said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
His account is roughly consistent with the most recent one given by U.S. officials, who now say one of the five people, killed in the raid was armed and fired any shots, a striking departure from the intense and prolonged firefight described earlier by the White House and others in the administration.
U.S. officials say four men were killed alongside bin Laden, including one of his sons.
The raid has exacerbated tensions between America and Pakistan. The army here is angry that it was not told about the unilateral raid on a target within its territory, while there are suspicions in Washington that bin Laden may have been protected by Pakistani security forces while on the run.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press