Pakistan: World shares blame for failing to get Osama bin Laden

Posted at 05/04/2011 7:28 PM | Updated as of 05/04/2011 7:31 PM

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan said Wednesday the world must share the blame for failing to unearth Osama bin Laden as a furore swelled over how the slain Al-Qaeda kingpin had managed to live undisturbed near Islamabad.

Following the killing of bin Laden by US commandos in a raid on his sprawling villa, Washington revealed that Pakistan was kept in the dark to avoid tipping off the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Saudi-born extremist was unarmed when he was shot dead early Monday, the White House also revealed, fuelling speculation that the elite Navy SEAL team was under orders to kill rather than capture him.

US officials, meanwhile, debated whether to scotch conspiracy theories by releasing a "gruesome" photo of the dead bin Laden, conscious that such an image would likely inflame strong passions in some Muslim countries.

Pakistan is smarting after it emerged that bin Laden had been tracked down and killed not in the mountainous caves of the Afghan border but in a purpose-built residential compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

The government of the nuclear-armed nation, insisting in the face of Western incredulity that it does not provide safe haven for militants, is angrily stressing its status as the victim of countless bloody attacks.

On the revelation that bin Laden was living less than two hours' drive north of the capital, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said: "Certainly, we have intelligence failure of the rest of the world including the United States.

"There is intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone," he told reporters during a visit to Paris.

Pakistan needed "the support of the entire world" to eradicate terrorism, Gilani added.

"We are fighting and paying a heavy price to combat terrorism and extremism... fighting not only for Pakistan but for the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world."

But unusually frank remarks from the CIA chief betrayed the extent of distrust between the United States and Pakistan, a problematic ally in the war against the resurgent Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

"It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission," Leon Panetta told Time magazine. "They might alert the targets."

Outraged US lawmakers are calling for billions of dollars in aid for Pakistan to be cut back or scrapped entirely, while several governments in Europe say Islamabad has pressing questions to answer.

Pakistani intelligence officials said agents raided the bin Laden compound in 2003 when it was still being built, looking for then Al-Qaeda number three Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who escaped and was eventually captured two years later.

They said the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had no idea bin Laden was later holed up in the compound in Abbottabad, which is home to Pakistan's equivalent of the West Point and Sandhurst military academies.

But Salman Bashir, the top civil servant in Pakistan's foreign ministry, told the BBC Wednesday that the ISI had in fact alerted the United States to its suspicions about the imposing compound "as far back as 2009".

But it was not known at the time that bin Laden was sheltering there and there were "millions" of other suspect locations, the foreign secretary acknowledged.

Bashir also said that Panetta's remarks were "disquieting" as he underlined the "pivotal role" played by Pakistan in fighting terror.

The White House gave the fullest account yet of the dramatic helicopter-borne raid that killed the architect of the 9/11 attacks at the dead of night and sparked scenes of relief and joy around the Western world.

"In the room with bin Laden, a woman -- bin Laden's wife -- rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed."

When pressed further, Carney said there had been significant resistance, a "volatile firefight", and insisted: "We were prepared to capture him if that was possible."

In Pakistan itself, conspiracy theories have proliferated after bin Laden's body was buried at sea off a US warship to forestall the prospect of a grave on land becoming an extremist shrine.

Police on Wednesday sealed off the Bilal suburb of Abbottabad, after crowds and the media had gathered outside the bin Laden compound's towering outer walls.

"More than 300 armed policemen have been deployed at the entry points, as well as in the town and close to the house, for security reasons," a local police official said.

Residents returning to their houses were body-searched and their ID cards checked, with some laborers prevented from going to work in the area, an AFP reporter said.

Dozens of Pakistani youths had demonstrated outside the house on Tuesday, mocking America and shouting "Osama is alive!"

US analysts were scouring documents and computer files seized from the hideout for evidence after top counter-terrorism official John Brennan said it was "inconceivable" bin Laden did not enjoy some kind of support network in Pakistan.

For a decade, Islamabad has been America's wary Afghan war ally, despite widespread public opposition and militant bomb attacks across the country that have killed several thousand people.

But Pakistan has never been fully trusted by either Kabul or Washington. It stands accused of fostering the Afghan Taliban, and before that extremists such as bin Laden who took up arms against Afghanistan's 1980s Soviet occupiers.

With Pakistan's main Taliban faction and jihadist websites vowing vengeance for bin Laden, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said the threat of reprisal attacks was real.

"Threats are everywhere and we can indeed fear that France will, like the United States and other friendly countries, be the target of reprisals and desire for vengeance," Gueant said on RTL radio.

The Afghan Taliban -- whose refusal to hand over bin Laden sparked a decade of war after 9/11 -- said late Tuesday that the United States had "not provided convincing documents" to prove that he was dead so it was premature to comment.

US officials say DNA tests have proven conclusively that the man shot above the eye was indeed the Al-Qaeda leader who boasted about the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in the September 11 attacks.

But they are also mulling whether to release a photo as proof.

"It is fair to say it is a gruesome photograph... it could be inflammatory," Carney said. "We are reviewing the situation."