Islamabad / Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat – “They have killed Hamza’s father! They have killed Hamza’s father!” These were the screams that greeted the first Pakistani official to enter the Abbottabad compound following the US raid which resulted in the death of Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. The Pakistani official, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, said that he entered the Bin Laden compound at approximately 1:45 am on 2 May 2011, with analysts believing that the US raid took place sometime between midnight and 1:30 am local time.
The Pakistani official, who works for the local government administration in Abbottabad, was the first government official on the scene following the US raid, and he told Asharq Al-Awsat that “initially, I had no idea who Hamza’s father was.” It was later revealed, of course, that Hamza’s father was none other than one of the world’s most wanted figures, Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden, along with his son Hamza, were killed in the US raid, along with a number of other figures.
The Pakistani official told Asharq Al-Awsat that he is not a fluent Arabic speaker, and was therefore unable to communicate effectively with the Arabic-speaking people in the compound; however he did say that he was able to understand the woman’s screams that Hamza’s father had been killed.
The Pakistani official revealed that upon entering the Abbottabad compound, the first woman that he encountered was an injured Pashtu woman, who informed him that some “foreigners” had entered the compound and killed her husband. He said “it became apparent that this woman was the wife of Arshad Khan, Osama Bin Laden’s host.”
He added “this Pakistani woman told me that the foreigners had killed some of the Arabs [staying in the compound], and that their bodies were on the third floor…and so I went to the third floor.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that “on the third floor, I met an injured Arab woman who screamed ‘they have killed Hamza’s father’ and she later revealed that this was Osama Bin Laden.”
Describing his feelings once hearing that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been living in the same village as him, the Pakistani official said that he was “shocked.”
He added that this woman was the Yemeni wife of Osama Bin Laden, later revealed to be Amal Ahmed Abdel Fatteh al-Sada, who was reported to have been shot in the leg during the US Navy Seal’s raid on the compound.
Amal al-Sada was later taken into custody by Pakistani authorities, along two other wives of the former Al Qaeda leader. The latest reports indicate that Islamabad may be willing to allow US investigators to question Bin Laden’s wives.
US President Barack Obama described the US raid as being “the longest 40 minutes of my life.” In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” Obama said that “we knew as events unfolded what was happening in and around the compound, but we could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound.” He added “I mean, we could not say definitively that Bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, there would have been some significant consequences…obviously, we’re going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation.”
As for the question of releasing the photos of Bin Laden after he had been killed, US President Barack Obama revealed “we discussed this internally. Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain that was him. We’ve done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama Bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating round as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool.”
He added “you know, that’s not who we are…we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies…the fact of the matter is this was somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received, and I think Americans and people around the world are glad that he’s gone.”
However the successful completion of the US raid has also had “significant consequences” upon the relationship between Washington and Islamabad, with Pakistan accusing the US of breaching its sovereignty, and many in the West speculating that Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency [ISI] may have known Bin Laden’s location.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that “the United States and Pakistan have an important, complicated relationship” although he acknowledged that “the cooperation that we’ve had with Pakistan has been important for years now in our fight against terrorist and terrorists.” He added “more terrorists have been killed on Pakistani soil because of that cooperation than anywhere else in the world, and that’s important to note.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed that Bin Laden’s death was “indeed justice done” but stressed that any future US unilateral actions in his country would be met with “full force.”
He said “it is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with Al Qaeda.” He added that any future US unilateral action “runs the inherent risk of serious consequences” and that “Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full force.” Gilani, in statements to the Pakistan parliament, also stressed that “no one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the United States does not apologize for its actions but that Washington’s relationship with Pakistan “is too important to walk away from.”