Tuesday, 28 February 2012. Mid-ranking Pakistani army officials may have known that Osama Bin Laden had a safe house in Pakistan, leaked material appears to indicate.
The claim was made in e-mails allegedly from US-based security think tank Stratfor, which were published by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks.
Stratfor warned ahead of publication it would make no comment on whether the emails were authentic or inaccurate.
Pakistan’s government and military have denied knowing Bin Laden’s whereabouts.
The al-Qaeda chief was killed in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May last year in a covert mission by US special forces.
The compound in the north-western town was demolished by Pakistani authorities last weekend.
One email from a senior Stratfor employee to colleagues is quoted as saying: “Mid to senior level ISI and Pak Mil with one retired Pak Mil General that had knowledge of the OBL arrangements and safe house.”
The messages go on to say that the names and specific ranks of these generals were unknown to the writer, but adds that US intelligence may have that information.
The emails allege that as many as 12 officials may have known, but says it is unclear exactly what position they may have had or even if they were retired personnel.
The information was allegedly obtained from material taken from the compound last May, according to the email exchange which took place in the weeks after the al-Qaeda chief’s death.
It is unclear if the information was passed to the Pakistani government but the employee is quoted saying “I would not pass the info to the GOP [government of Pakistan], because we can’t trust them.”
Stratfor’s computers were hacked by the activist group Anonymous in December. Stratfor boss George Friedman said at the time anyone looking for signs of a vast conspiracy would be disappointed.
“Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimised twice by submitting to questioning about them,” Stratfor said in a statement on the publication of the emails by Wikileaks.
Analysis, Gordon Corera, Security correspondent, BBC News
There has been intense suspicion over how much Pakistani authorities knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts but never any definitive proof – or at least none that has been made public. There’s no smoking gun, as one Western intelligence official told me.
The Stratfor emails – if they are genuine – on the surface might appear to contradict that and seem remarkably specific about the details of who knew what. But the problem remains knowing whether they amount to real evidence.
The fact Stratfor itself never made more of the information might indicate that they were not sure of its truthfulness or had other information to contradict it. The claims could of course be true but one email from an un-named source to a private intelligence company that has been leaked is not really enough to constitute a smoking gun.