ISLAMABAD: Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden moved to Pakistan in 2002, a few months after US started large-scale air strikes on Afghanistan, particularly in the Tora Bora region, during its anti-Taliban war which it launched in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 attacks.
The information about Osama crossing over into Pakistan and staying in different cities and towns before moving to Abbottabad came in the testimony given by his widow Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah during interrogation by a joint investigation team (JIT) comprising civilian and military officials.
She told the investigators that after 9/11 she reunited with her husband in Peshawar in 2002. From Peshawar they went to Swat where they lived for about nine months. Later, they stayed for about two years in Haripur before moving to Abbottabad where the Al Qaeda leader was killed in a raid by US commandos in May last year.
In the first full account of Osama’s movement after 9/11, she told the investigation team in Islamabad that she had lived with him in four cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but declined to say if any Pakistani official had been in contact with him.
The 29-year-old Yemeni woman said she had a desire to marry a mujahid. Osama was available. “So in this connection when she got a message of marriage with Osama bin Laden, she came to Pakistan and landed at Karachi airport on 17/07/2000,” the JIT report said.
But she overstayed her three-month visa and later went to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Ms Amal told the investigators that she got married to Osama before 9/11, but did not specify any date. According to her, Osama was living with his three wives, including her, and some Arab families. Then came 9/11 and the family scattered.
“She stayed in a flat in Karachi for almost 8/9 months and all the things were arranged by some Pakistani families and Saad, elder son of Osama, was coordinating all the things,” the report said.
She told the investigators that during her stay in Karachi she changed her residence six or seven times. The investigators say they have not been able to trace Saad.
According to the JIT report, after their reunion in Peshawar Osama and Amal went to Swat where they stayed for 8/9 months.
Thereafter they stayed in Haripur for two years and subsequently shifted to Abbottabad and lived there for almost six years till the time Osama was killed.
Amal’s eldest daughter, Safia, was born in Kandahar in 2001. Aasia and Ibrahim were born in Haripur in a government hospital and Zainab and Hussain in Abbottabad.
The report discloses that Osama’s family lived in Pakistan with the families of two Pakistanis, Ibrahim and Abrar.
Investigators told Dawn that the two Pakistani men had fake identity cards from Sargodha and their real identities were never ascertained because they were killed during the US raid on Osama’s compound in Abbottabad.
The JIT recommends that Amal, and her five children, may be repatriated to her country, Yemen.
Ms Amal is the only member of Osama’s family who agreed to talk to Pakistani interrogators.
The two other widows, Khairia Hussain Sabir alias Umme Hamza and Siham Sharif alias Umme Khalid, and their daughters Mariam and Summaya, have refused to cooperate with the investigators.
The report does not say if any government or military official knew about Osama’s presence in Pakistan.
The trial of Osama’s family is under way in the federal capital. His widows and two adult daughters are likely to be charged under the Foreigners Act next week.
They are being tried in a heavily guarded house in G-6 sector where the family members spoke to investigators in a hall where they were separated by a curtain. “They observe strict ‘purdah’ and are fully covered under veil from head to toe,” one investigator said.
Amal’s brother Zakaria Al Sadah is in Pakistan, trying to secure the release of his sister and her children. “My sister wants to go back. She is innocent and has not committed any crime. She should be freed immediately,” he said.
But his request has not been accepted so far.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said they will be tried and will not be allowed to leave the country before the court’s ruling.