Osama bin Laden was protected by elements of Pakistan’s security apparatus in return for millions of dollars of Saudi cash, according to a controversial new account of the operation to kill the world’s most wanted man.
Raelynn Hillhouse, an American security analyst, claims his whereabouts were finally revealed when a Pakistani intelligence officer came forward to claim the $25m (£15 million) bounty on the al-Qaeda leader’s head.
Her version, based on evidence from sources in what she calls the “intelligence community”, contradicts the official account that bin Laden was tracked down through his trusted courier.
Pakistani officials have always denied that bin Laden was sheltered or that Islamabad had any knowledge of the secret mission that killed him.
But Dr Hillhouse, who is known for her links to private military contractors that work extensively with the CIA, says Pakistan gave permission for a covert mission which would then be covered up by claiming bin Laden had been killed in a drone strike.
“The [Inter-Services Intelligence] officer came forward to claim the substantial reward and to broker US citizenship for his family,” she writes on her intelligence blog, The Spy Who Billed Me.
“My sources tell me that the informant claimed that the Saudis were paying off the Pakistani military and intelligence (ISI) to essentially shelter and keep bin Laden under house arrest in Abbottabad, a city with such a high concentration of military that I’m told there’s no equivalent in the US.” After confirming bin Laden’s presence in the military town, the US approached Pakistan’s military leaders securing their co-operation in return for cash and a chance to avoid public humiliation.
The theory, if true, would explain how American black hawk helicopters were then able to fly deep into Pakistan territory in May without encountering resistance.
The plan only unravelled when one of the helicopters crash-landed, blowing the cover story.
“The co-operation was why there were no troops in Abottabad,” writes Dr Hillhouse. “It had always seemed very far-fetched to me that a helicopter could crash and later be destroyed in an area with such high military concentration without the Pakistanis noticing.” In the immediate aftermath of the raid, some residents of Abbottabad, where bin Laden had lived for five years, said they had received mysterious visits a night earlier warning them to stay inside with their lights off.
However, a senior Pakistani security official denied that the ISI had sheltered bin Laden.
“We don’t use toilet paper – we wash,” he said. “But toilet paper is all this theory is good for.”
A spokesman for the US department of defense said: “We have no additional operational details, or comments on operational details, to make at this time.”