Pakistan doctor’s handling worries Panetta
WASHINGTON US DEFENSE Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed concern about Pakistan’s treatment of a doctor who helped the United States find Al- Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
The doctor, Shikal Afridi, has been arrested and charged with treason by the Pakistani government.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” programme due to be aired on Sunday, Panetta acknowledged that Afridi, a Pakistani doctor in Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden was found, had in fact been working for US intelligence, collecting DNA to verify the 9/11 mastermind’s presence.
US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 2 in a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, north of the capital Islamabad, and later buried him at sea.
“I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual ... who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” Panetta said, according to excerpts of the interview.
“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan,” the defence secretary said. “Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism ... and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.” Panetta said he still believed someone in authority in Pakistan knew where bin Laden was hiding before US forces went in to find him.
Intelligence reports found that Pakistani military helicopters had passed over the compound in Abbottabad, according to the interview.
“I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound,” Panetta said. “Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls ... It was the largest compound in the area.
“So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?’” Panetta told CBS.
The Pentagon chief said this concern contributed to Washington’s decision not to give Pakistan advance warning of the impending raid.
“It concerned us that if we in fact brought (Pakistan) into it, that — they might ..
give bin Laden a heads up,” he said.
Panetta acknowledged he did not have “hard evidence” that Pakistan knew of the Al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.