Officials: At end, bin Laden a figurehead

June 29, 2011 at 10:18 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 29 (UPI) -- Osama bin Laden became al-Qaida's "cranky old uncle," out of touch with younger followers who didn't always heed his advice, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The officials' portrait of bin Laden's authority when he was hiding out in northern Pakistan contradict assertions by some U.S. officials that bin Laden was running a command and control center from the walled compound in Abbottabad raided by U.S. military forces who killed the al-Qaida leader in May, McClatchy Newspapers reported Wednesday.

"He was like the cranky old uncle that people weren't listening to," said a U.S. official, who was briefed on evidence collected from the compound. "The younger guys had never worked directly with him. They did not take everything he said as right."

McClatchy said it discovered bin Laden household was buying and selling gold jewelry, perhaps as a way to raise money. Another revelation indicated the household consumed less gas and electricity than other neighboring homes, despite including at least nine women and twice that many children.

The SEALs who raided the compound took computer hard drives and flash drives that held a cache of data. Most of that information has been reviewed, allowing officials to draw better conclusions about how bin Laden spent his time in the compound and with whom he'd been in contact.

Among other things, the e-records bolstered the long-held belief that bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, named al-Qaida's leader this month, was more involved and important to the group's operations than bin Laden during the past several years, McClatchy said.

"He wanted to stay involved," the U.S. official said of bin Laden. "He was corresponding with a lot of senior [al-Qaida] people, correcting perceptions, giving advice. He remained important as a symbol, sending out instructions, giving spiritual guidance."

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