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Pakistan criticizes US raid on bin Laden

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Local people and media gather outside the perimeter wall and sealed gate into the compound and a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed late Monday, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. Local people and media gather outside the perimeter wall and sealed gate into the compound and a house where al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was caught and killed late Monday, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan criticized the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden as an "unauthorized unilateral action," laying bare the strains the raid has put on an already rocky alliance.

A day after U.S. commandos killed the world's most wanted man after a 10-year manhunt, new details emerged Tuesday from Pakistan's powerful intelligence agency and neighbors of bin Laden that raised more questions about whether some elements within the security forces knew, and perhaps protected, the al-Qaida chief.

Neighbors in the city of Abbottabad, a two-hour drive from the Pakistani capital, sensed something was odd about the house where bin Laden and members of his family lived, even though the terror chief and his family rarely ventured outside and most residents were not aware that foreigners were living there.

One man, Sher Mohammed Khan, said his sister went to the house to administer a polio vaccination as part of a government-backed drive. When she remarked on all the expensive SUVs inside the compound, a man immediately asked her to leave, but not before taking the vaccine to apparently administer to the children inside.

"People were skeptical in this neighborhood about this place and these guys," said Mashood Khan, a 45-year-old farmer. "They used to gossip, say they were smugglers or drug dealers. People would complain that even with such a big house they didn't invite the poor or distribute charity.'

But not everyone was suspicious.

Khurshid Bibi, in her 70s, said one man living in the compound had given her a lift to the market in the rain. She said her grandchildren played with the kids in the house and the people in the compound gave them rabbits as a gift.

U.S. officials have suggested Pakistani officials may have known where bin Laden was living. Members of Congress have seized on those suspicions to call for the U.S. to consider cutting billions of aid to Pakistan if it turns out the government knew where bin Laden was hiding.

However, within Pakistan, the domestic criticism has been more focused on the U.S. breaching the country's sovereignty. The U.S. has said it did not inform the Pakistanis ahead of time about the raid, for fear they would tip off the targets.

A strongly worded Pakistani government statement warned the U.S. not to launch similar operations in the future. It rejected suggestions that officials knew where bin Laden was.

Still there were other revelations that pointed to prior knowledge that the compound was linked to al-Qaida.

Pakistani intelligence agencies hunting for a top al-Qaida operative staged a 2003 raid against the house where bin Laden was killed, said a senior officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the spy agency's policy.

U.S. officials have said bin Laden lived in the house for up to six years, begging the question of how he could have moved into the property without the Pakistani government knowing. The three-story house is located in a middle-class neighborhood of Abbottabad and is surrounded by 15-foot walls.

The house was just being built when Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency raided it in 2003 in a search of Abu Faraj al-Libi, regarded as al-Qaida's No. 3, said the agency officer. Al-Libi was not there, he said.

Since the operation against bin Laden, a U.S. official has said that al-Libi once lived in the house and that information from him played a role in tracking the al-Qaida chief down.

The Pakistani officer said he didn't know why al-Qaida would use a house that already had been compromised.

Al-Libi was arrested by Pakistani police in 2005 after a shootout in the northwestern town of Mardan. He was later handed over to U.S. authorities.

The officer said the ISI would have captured bin Laden if it had known where he was there, and pushed back at international criticism of the agency.

"Look at our track record given the issues we have faced, the lack of funds. We have killed or captured hundreds (of extremists)," said the officer. "All of a sudden one failure makes us incompetent and 10 years of effort is overlooked."

The Pakistani government said ISI had been sharing information since 2009 with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies about the compound where bin Laden lived. Islamabad said the intelligence flow indicating some foreigners were in the area of Abbottabad continued until id April 2011.

In an essay published Tuesday by The Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari denied suggestions his country's security forces may have sheltered bin Laden, and said their cooperation with the United States helped pinpoint him.

Washington said it did not inform Islamabad about commando attack on bin Laden early Monday morning for security reasons. The raid followed months of deteriorating relations between the CIA and Pakistan's main intelligence service.

In a statement, the government said "this event of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule."

"The Government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the U.S.," adding such actions can sometimes constitute a "threat to international peace and security."

The statement may be partly motivated by domestic concerns. The government and army has come under criticism following the raid by those who have accused the government of allowing Washington to violate the country's sovereignty. Islamabad has also been angered at the suspicions it had been sheltering bin Laden.

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday demanded Islamabad answer for how bin Laden had lived undetected the house. But in a nod to the complexities of dealing with a nuclear-armed, unstable country that is crucial to success in the war in neighboring Afghanistan, Cameron said having "a massive row" with Islamabad over the issue would not be in Britain's interest.


Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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