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Pakistan denies prior knowledge of raid

  |   May 4, 2011 at 12:31 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 4 (UPI) -- Pakistan, facing questions about Osama bin Laden's living there, denied having any prior knowledge about the U.S. operation that killed the al-Qaida leader.

The foreign office, in a lengthy statement carried by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan, described as "absolutely false and incorrect" reports that U.S. helicopters took off from the Ghazi air base in Pakistan to carry out the operation Sunday night on bin Laden's compound in Pakistan's garrison town of Abbottabad, northeast of Islamabad.

Since the killing of bin Laden -- the world's most wanted terrorist who masterminded the deadly Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States -- questions have come up as to how he was able to live in Abbottabad, so close to Islamabad, without the knowledge of the Pakistani government, its powerful military or its spy agency. Pakistan is a close ally of the United States in the fight against terrorism.

The Pakistani foreign ministry said the government and its state institutions have been making serious efforts to bring bin Laden to justice.

"However, the government of Pakistan categorically denies the media reports suggesting that its leadership, civil as well as military, had any prior knowledge of the US operation against Osama bin Laden …"

The report said the ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency) had "been sharing information with the (U.S. Central Intelligence Agency) and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009" on the compound where bin Laden was located and killed.

The Time magazine Tuesday reported that CIA Director Leon Panetta confirmed Pakistanis were not told about the raid "as they might alert the targets."

The Pakistani foreign ministry said: "It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Laden, a fact also acknowledged by (U.S. President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) in their statements," adding ISI's own achievements against al-Qaida and in the war on terror "are more than any other intelligence agency in the world."

In denying that U.S. helicopters took off from the Pakistani air base, the foreign office said, "Neither any base or facility inside Pakistan was used by the U.S. forces, nor Pakistan army provided any operational or logistic assistance to these operations…"

It said the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace undetected "making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain."

The statement said after information on the raid was received, the Pakistani Air Force "scrambled its jets within minutes."

"It needs to be appreciated that many houses occupied by the affectees of operations in FATA/KPK, (Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas and its Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or the former North-West Frontier Province where Abbottabad is located) have high boundary walls, in line with their culture of privacy and security. Houses with such layout and structural details are not a rarity."

The foreign office said the family members of bin Laden "are all in safe hands and being looked after in accordance with law. Some of them needing medical care are under treatment in the best possible facilities. As per policy, they will be handed over to their countries of origin."

The statement did not say who was holding the family members.

The foreign office said its government has "deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the government of the United States carried out this operation without prior information or authorization" and stressed that "such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the United States."

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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