World Bulletin / News Desk
Osama bin Laden lived in plain sight for almost a decade and was once even pulled over for speeding but not apprehended, an official report into his killing said on Monday.
The report, leaked to Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera which circulated it late on Monday, offers fascinating details about life on the run for the world's most wanted man, who, it says, wore a cowboy hat to avoid being spotted from above.
Written by a judge-led commission that the Pakistani government set up shortly after U.S. special forces killed bin Laden in 2011, the 336-page report is based on interviews with 201 sources including members of his family and various officials.
"Once when they were all ... on a visit to the bazaar they were stopped for speeding by a policeman," the report says. "But her (Maryam's) husband quickly settled the matter with the policeman and they drove on."
The inquiry's findings - which have not yet been officially published - include evidence of incompetence at almost every level of Pakistan's security apparatus. The report is also fiercely critical of the "illegal manner" in which the United States conducted the raid.
It chastises Pakistan's leadership for failing to detect CIA activities on its soil, and does not rule out the involvement of rogue elements within the Pakistani intelligence service - a sensitive issue even to touch on in a high-profile inquiry.
"The U.S. acted like a criminal thug," says the report by the Abbottabad Commission.
"But above all, the tragedy refers to the comprehensive failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of OBL (Osama bin Laden) on its territory for almost a decade or to discern the direction of U.S. policy towardsPakistan that culminated in the avoidable humiliation of the people of Pakistan."
In a night-time mission by U.S. Navy SEALs, bin Laden was killed on May 2 that year in an episode that humiliated Pakistan's military and strained relations between the strategic allies Washington and Islamabad.
"As for (failing to detect) the CIA network, there was culpable negligence and incompetence," the report says.
"Although the possibility of some degree of connivance inside or outside the government cannot be entirely discounted, no individual can be identified as guilty of connivance."
Pakistan's government and security officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
LIFE ON THE RUN
The report offers insights into the dramatic night of his death and paints a picture of a restless and paranoid man who often hit the road to avoid being caught.
It found that he probably crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan's Tora Bora area, where U.S. forces were hunting him, sometime in 2002. His family moved from Afghanistan's Kandahar to Karachi shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"They kept a very low profile and lived extremely frugally. They never exposed themselves to public view. They had minimum security," the report says.
"OBL successfully minimised any 'signature' of his presence. His minimal support group blended easily with the surrounding community ... His wives, children and grandchildren hardly ever emerged from the places where they stayed. No one ever visited them, not even trusted al Qaeda members."
His wives, in their testimonies, said bin Laden was not fond of personal possessions and had very few clothes.
"Before coming to Abbottabad he had just three pairs of shalwar kameez (traditional dress) for summer, and three pairs for winter," the report says.
"Whenever OBL felt unwell (unofficial U.S. accounts indicate he suffered from Addison's disease), he treated himself with traditional Arab medicine ... and whenever he felt sluggish he would take some chocolate with an apple."