A police report has provided Western intelligence officials with new information about how Osama bin Laden evaded capture in the nine years after 9/11.
But the report, given by bin Laden’s youngest wife to Pakistani police, has also raised questions about how the slain al-Qaeda leader was not caught earlier by Pakistani security forces.
In the years he was on the run, bin Laden lived in five different homes across Pakistan and fathered four children, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fateh told police. Her report was first noted by Pakistani news site Dawn, and then obtained by the New York Times.
Fateh’s report suggests that bin Laden took some precautions. For several years, the family hid in rural northwest Pakistan — away from the tribal regions where Western authorities had searched for the terrorist leader.
But there were also opportunities for capture. Two of bin Laden’s children were born in government hospitals, though Fateh used a fake name, according to the report. Bin Laden also moved his family around quite a bit, changing houses seven different times, including for a move to Abbottabad in 2005, where he was later killed by U.S. Navy Seals.
“To find bin Laden ... the Americans needed to think more like him, to absorb the structures and rhythms of a terror network,” wrote Peter Finn, Ian Shapira and Marc Fisher last May in The Hunt, a Washington Post special report on bin Laden.
Thinking like him apparently meant recognizing that there were people who did know his whereabouts, such as the courier who got his orders out.
But there are few details in Fateh’s report about the other Pakistanis who aided her husband on the run. When asked who helped the family change houses seven times, Fateh told a police officer: “some Pakistani family.” Fateh’s words, however, were paraphrased by police officers throughout the report.
Fateh and bin Laden’s other two widows are thought to be held at a house in Islamabad (pictured above), where they are being questioned by investigators, according to the Times.
Their lawyer told the Times that bin Laden’s widows and two adult children are expected to be charged Monday with breaking Pakistani immigration laws, which could put them in jail for five years.